Although I’ve been trying to find warmer weather lately, nothing would make me miss the Taste of Iceland. Almost as good as going to Iceland (almost!), I had the chance to attend the VIP Media Preview for the Taste of Iceland dinner held at the Rialto restaurant in Cambridge, MA on March 13, 2014. This annual festival highlights the best of Icelandic food, music, and culture through a five day long event. I highly recommend making time to attend at least one of the events, if not all. Afterwards, you’ll definitely need to plan a trip to Iceland immediately.
The first part of the event is the Taste of Iceland‘s Icelandic Menu prepared by Iceland chef Hákon Már Örvarsson, winner of Bocuse d’Or and World Culinary Cup. Chef Örvarsson will collaborate with Rialto chef Jody Adams, a James Beard Award winner and former Top Chef Masters competitor.
Diners will enjoy a four-course meal featuring traditional tapas style dishes, fresh Arctic Char, free-range Icelandic lamb, and Skyr of the Vikings.
The Taste of Iceland VIP Media Preview gave the media the opportunity to not only sample every element of the Icelandic menu that will be featured during the event, but to also meet chef Hákon Már Örvarsson.
The Rialto set up a special room for the event complete with attentive servers to bring food and drinks around. The preview allowed us to sample the food that is going to be served throughout the upcoming days including the incredibly fresh Icelandic fish and meat flown in especially for this event.
In addition to wine, the Taste of Iceland event created a special cocktail available to sample called the Strawberry Mule.
Made with Reyka Vodka, strawberry, ginger, and lime, I was tempted, but stuck with Pellegrino. It looked so good and I do love my Reyka Vodka!
Now the food! Chef Örvarsson has prepared a special Icelandic menu showcasing the best of Nordic cuisine. If you love fish, then you will love the bounty of fresh fish that is going to be served at the Taste of Iceland. Here’s the breakdown:
Traditional Tapas Style Dishes
- “Haröfiskur” Icelandic dried fish with Icelandic butter
- Cured salmon in “Brennivan” with cream cheese, cress and lumpfish caviar on sweet rye bread
- Pickled herring with curry dressing, green apples and spring onions on sweet rye bread
- Deep fried crispy balls of cod and potatoes with dill sauce
- Grilled Icelandic langoustine tails with garlic and herbs
Next up was the Arctic Char. Cold smoked and gently cooked filet of farmed, Icelandic Arctic Char. Served with honey-grain mustard dressing, cream of horseradish, fresh herbs and dill oil.
For the main course, guests will dine on Free Range Icelandic Lamb. Seared and slowly cooked filet of free range Icelandic lamb, glazed root vegetables, celeriac purée, juniper berry infused lamb jus reduction, dust of dried wild Icelandic herbs and blueberries.
Dessert? Oh yes, there was dessert and it was Skyr of the Vikings. Delicate mousse of the Icelandic Skyr and Skyr ice cream. Served with hazelnut crumble and cinnamon flavored poached rhubarb. The picture above is of the dessert on a tray as it was whisked away for fear that I might want to dive in! Unfortunately, since I neither eat meat or fish, I was unable to taste the food to provide any commentary, but if clean plates and satisfied looks are any indicator of the quality of the food, then you should know that the food was spectacular.
Who really enjoyed the food? These guys! The biggest treat for me at this event was the opportunity to meet both Sin Fang and Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson and his brother, Logi Pedro Stefánsson, of Retro Stefson. Of course, I felt like a 14-year-old teenage girl who couldn’t shut up. Not everyone in the room might have known who these guys were, but they are currently in my playlist and I listen to them daily. More than slightly enamored and a little star struck, I couldn’t believe that I not only got to take pictures of them, but chat with each of them for a while. I listen to Retro Stefson‘s “Julia” every day when I run and here they were! When Unnsteinn recognized my Aegishjalmur (or “helm of awe”) for what it was and not a snowflake as it is so often misidentified, I could hardly contain my joy.
While talking to Logi Retro Stefson I learned that he is in a new group called “Highlands.” Don’t worry – he’s not leaving Unnstein to fend for himself. He met 18-year-old Karin Sveinsdóttir during a singing competition in Iceland where he was a judge and one thing led to another and now they’re making music. Take a listen to their first song, Hearts, here:
UPDATE: Looks like Highlands has changed its name to “Young Karin.”
Sin Fang is one of Iceland’s biggest up-and-coming musicians and his third solo album, Flowers, was recently named “Album of the Year” by Reykjavik Grapevine, while his single “Young Boys” was named “Song of the Year” and is also currently on my run playlist. Sin Fang was quirky enough to strike a pose in his pizza slice sweater, but kind enough to answer my questions about whether having songs like “Young Boys” and “Two Boys” was coincidental or not. Only I would want to know! Just like their music, both Sin Fang and Retro Stefson were approachable and interesting and they made me fall a little more in love with Iceland than I already am, if that’s even possible.
Here are the specifics for the upcoming events for the Taste of Iceland in Boston:
ICELANDIC MENU AT RIALTO RESTAURANT
An authentic Icelandic meal will be available Friday through Tuesday at the legendary Rialto Restaurant, located in Harvard Square.
$85 per person (tax, gratuity, and beverages not included).
For reservations, call 617-234-8026 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 14-18 | 8PM | Rialto Restaurant & Bar | One Bennett St. | Cambridge
REYKJAVIK CALLING CONCERT
The free Reykjavik Calling concert combines three of Iceland’s most talented musicians with two Boston-area musicians for a night of spectacular collaborations. Past Reykjavik Calling performers have included of Monsters and Men, Asgeir Trausti, Lay Low and many more. Presented by WERS 88.9 FM and Iceland Naturally, admission to the concert is free and will be granted on a first-come, first served basis. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m.
Icelandic musicians: Hermigervill (Electronic) | Retro Stefson (Electronic/Alternative) | Sin Fang (Indie/Electronic)
Boston musicians: The Love Experiment (Indie/R&B) | Skinny Bones (Folk)
March 15 | 8PM | The Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub | 472-480 Massachusetts Ave. | Cambridge
REYKA VODKA CRAFT COCKTAIL CLASS
New to Taste of Iceland in Boston, this special, hands-on craft cocktail class will teach participants to artfully assemble cocktails using Icelandic Reyka Vodka. Led by Liberty Hotel Mixologist Juan Carlos Perez, the class is free and attendance is limited to 50. Must be 21 years or older to participate.
March 16 | 4 p.m. | The Liberty Hotel | 215 Charles St. | Boston
About Taste of Iceland
Taste of Iceland is a festival that brings the best of Iceland’s food, music and culture to cities across North America. Taste of Iceland in Boston is presented by Iceland Naturally in cooperation with Icelandair, Reyka Vodka, Blue Lagoon, Icelandic Glacial Water, Promote Iceland, Rialto Restaurant & Bar, The Liberty Hotel, The Middle East and WERS 88.9 FM.
About Iceland Naturally
Iceland Naturally is a cooperative marketing organization that promotes the tourism, services, products and culture of Iceland. It represents the true essence of Iceland, its creativity and spectacular natural wonders. The group is comprised of Icelandair, Icelandic Group, Islandsbanki, Reyka Vodka, City of Reykjavik, Icelandic Glacial Water, Blue Lagoon, Keflavik International Airport (KEF),
Landsvirkjun, Promote Iceland and the Government of Iceland. For more information visit: www.icelandnaturally.com.