Melted glacier water

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Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited. The landscape seems to change by the minute while driving. You’ll go from lava fields to ice fields within the hour. It’s difficult to pinpoint the most beautiful spot on Iceland, but a big contender has to be the glacier lagoon and the diamond beach. Here, big chunks of ice that fall off the nearby glacier slide off into the lagoon, onto the beach and end up in the ocean creating a spectacular sight.

I passed by some of these “rocks” and noticed they were melting in the sun. I decided there and then to have a try of some of nature’s purest waters. I did think a little about possible contamination, what with the blocks of ice sliding over the ground and all, but I figured I’m only here once. Besides I figured if the outer layer had already melted, the inner part couldn’t possibly be contaminated.

I held my empty soda bottle under a flowing stream and waited a couple of minutes for it to fill. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, water if water after all, but it definitely was clear and refreshing. It pretty much tasted like water is supposed to taste, maybe even slightly better, without any additives we get in our tap water in Holland (I dare not drink tap water in China).

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

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Whale steak

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Some of you may remember my review of whale bacon at a bar in Tokyo. That still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. It might have just beaten the good old durian to the title of “worst thing I ever put in my mouth”. There are not many places in this world where you can eat whale, as it’s illegal in most countries, but Iceland is an exception.

I know, whales are precious animals, and many people think they should not be eaten, but please do understand that Iceland is a land with minimal natural resources. The only mammal that lives there that was not introduced by settler is the arctic fox. I’m a strong believer that people eat what they have, and well in Iceland they have whales. These days of course it’s less necessary to eat whale as you can get all kind of goods imported, but it’s still readily available.

On my last day in Iceland I did a food tour of Reykjavik. We were served all kind of beautiful dishes such as lobster soup and skyr, and then at one restaurant a plate of grilled whale steak came out. You can imagine I was somewhat hesitant to try it, but at least this was the meaty part and not the fatty part.

It was indeed a thousand times better than the whale bacon, but that does not mean I liked it. On the contrary. The meat was extremely gristly and chewy, something which I have hated since childhood. To cap it off there was this weird fishy yet not fishy flavor to it. Safe to say I didn’t finish. I think my whaling days are over.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 3

Rye bread ice cream

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Café Loki in Reykjavik was the place where I tried that sheep’s head jelly. To was down the flavors I ordered dessert in the form of their ‘famous’ rye bread ice cream. Rye bread is a classic in all the Scandinavian countries, and no less so in Iceland. They even bake some in the hot springs and thermal pool. It can be quite sweet, depending on the bread, which is why it didn’t sound that crazy to me to turn it into a dessert.

When I ordered it I assumed the bread would have been soaking in the custard base leaving behind the taste of rye. However, it wasn’t removed from the custard but rather crumbled through. The ice cream itself was quite smooth and tasted of caramel. The rye bread added texture, but didn’t actually impart much flavor, whether or not that’s a good thing, I have yet to make up my mind about.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Asparagus panna cotta

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that every once in a while I like to cook up a multi course dinner on a special occasion. I thought my visit to my parents in July warranted such an occasion. I decided to cook a meal centered on local produce and recipes. In this case I cooked with ingredients from the Limburg region. This is the southernmost part of The Netherlands that has a strong French influence.

One of the things we are famous for throughout the country is asparagus. We always eat the white asparagus that hasn’t seen the sun yet, which is known as our “white gold”. I didn’t want to simply cook them and add a poached egg, some cheese and a slice of ham, so I transformed them into something completely different.

I used some asparagus puree and some cream to make an asparagus panna cotta. I served it with some crispy ham and a wafer made of local cheese. The panna cotta was perfectly velvety smooth and soft, so you could use the chips as a spoon. I have to say I was really pleased with this concoction as the taste was great, and it was well executed.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 9

Sheep’s head jelly

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My recent travels brought me to Iceland, where I spent a couple of days exploring the beauty of this land. I stayed in Reykjavik and made day trips from there. Obviously most of the meals I had were indeed in Reykjavik. One of the best locations was at Café Loki, with a view of the gorgeous Halgrimmskirkja church. It was here that I ordered the local delicacy of sheep’s head jelly.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the first thing that popped in my mind as it arrived was “head cheese”. It was indeed just that, a block of jelly with lots of little pieces of meat taken from a boiled sheep’s head. In this case the jelly was sliced and served on flatbread with some mashed turnips. I thought I could handle that.I was wrong.

Well, I was half right. I could handle it when eaten together with the bread and mash, but on its own it wasn’t all that appetizing. Actually the jelly-like texture, the sometimes chewy pieces of skin and the at times barnyardy flavor were kind of off-putting. I managed to eat it all, only because of the accompaniments.

Fear Factor – 4 / Taste Test – 3

Ruby chocolate KitKat

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As far as most people are aware there are only three kinds of chocolate. Dark, milk and white. That awesome threesome came to an end in 2017 when Barry Callebaut, of the famous Swiss chocolate company Callebaut, introduced a fourth member to the team. After years of development ruby red chocolate was born.

Ruby chocolate is apparently 100% natural, without any added food coloring or berries. It is made from a special kind of cocoa berry that allows for the fascinating color. It’s supposedly a little sour, yet sweet and is still quite difficult to come by. Behold the wonderful KitKat company who released a ruby red KitKat, albeit slightly more expensive than a regular candy bar. Naturally I had to dig into one and so I bought  a ruby chocolate KitKat when I was in Holland on my holidays.

The color was a shocking pink. Hard to believe that no food coloring was used. Taking a cautious nibble on the chocolate covering alone, I could detect hardly any trace of chocolate flavor. Instead there was a distinct sourness paired with berries. As if I was eating a breakfast yogurt cup. This was indeed something different and something new. Interesting enough to try, but it doesn’t beat the original in my eyes.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Reindeer chips

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I fly back to Holland once a year, in summer, to see my friends and family. This time I had a stopover in Helsinki, Finland, just like last year. That brought with it the opportunity to try out some reindeer or elk products I might not yet have tasted. New on the shelves this year was a bag of so-called reindeer chips.

Now I know I have written about chips a lot on this here blog, but those have always been potato chips. In this case the chips were entirely made of reindeer meat. It had been sliced razor thin and left to dry. The consistency really was like a chip, crispy and crunchy at every bite, and not chewy like jerky.

Taste-wise it had that similar sourness that I found in the reindeer meat I tried at the airport last year. At the time I thought that was due to the curing, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps reindeer just tastes a bit acidic. At any rate, it made for a nice crunch and a quick snack before boarding my flight to Amsterdam.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7