France, Italy, Japan…these are countries known for their food. But, Iceland? It had honestly never even crossed my mind. That is, until I stepped foot in Rialto, a restaurant located in Boston’s Harvard Square. Rialto is an Italian restaurant, but that night we took our taste buds on a trip to Iceland. Iceland Naturally, an organization that seeks to encourage tourism, recently hosted Taste of Iceland, an annual festival that brings the country’s food, music, booze, and culture right to Boston. Lucky me!
I was invited to attend the media tasting event for the special Icelandic popup menu at Rialto, where we were treated to passed bites of fishy yumminess. Before digging in, guest chef Hákon Már Örvarsson explained that many of the ingredients where flown in from Iceland, just the day before.
I was a bit wary at first, as I’d been told that Iceland’s delicacy is fermented shark, but one bite of the deep fried cod balls and I was a changed woman. The outside was super crispy and the inside had a nice creamy texture. The cured salmon with lemon-sour cream and lumpfish caviar was another favorite. The group I was chatting with made sure to flag it down whenever a fresh tray was in sight.
I also sampled the Arctic Char, which was cold-smoked and then gently cooked. It was so tender and flaky that I could hardly believe it. Note to self: Keep an eye out for Arctic Char and learn about cold-smoking.
The meal ended with a Skyr tart. Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product with a similar taste to Greek yogurt. It’s been a staple there since the Vikings invented it. Bet you didn’t know that Vikings knew much about cooking! The tart was chilled, had a crispy oat crust, and was topped with cinnamon flavored poached rhubarb. Second note to self: poach rhubarb.
Overall, it was a delicious fish-infused meal. I was hoping to pick Chef Örvarsson’s brain for some Icelandic cooking tips, but was dissuaded by his mention of “moss dust” which, he assured me, I could find at a grocery store. I’m not so sure. He did tell me about The Miðfjarðara, which is one of the best salmon rivers in Iceland. Chef Örvarsson is now the chef at Laxahvammur, an esteemed lodge alongside the river.
Now, I’m no Chef Örvarsson, but I do make a good piece of salmon. It’s simple. Much much simpler than anything I had the pleasure of tasting at Rialto, but good salmon doesn’t need much dressing up. I hope to one day taste Nordic cuisine in Iceland, but until then, I’ll be munching on this Lemony Pepper Salmon.
— Logi Pedro (@logifknpedro) March 14, 2014
P.P.S. I have no idea what the above tweet means...
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 lb. fresh salmon fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375o. 2. Rinse salmon, pat dry and place, skin side down, in a cast iron skillet. 3. Pour olive oil over fish and use your fingers or a brush to coat. Squeeze half the lemon over the fish and sprinkle with the black pepper. 4. Cover skillet with tinfoil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until inside of fillet is opaque.