Tag Archives: Nordic

Winter – As Seen in the Glow of Nordic Candlelight

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In the northern hemisphere, we are in the middle of the coldest and darkest days of the yeafrostr and you might be dreaming of (or even packing for) your next adventure to a tropical destination. Here at GreenSpot, we are completely in favor of that strategy. However, something remarkable happened to me during the years I lived in Scandinavia.

I began to appreciate winter.

Not because I am a skier or because I enjoy the childish construction of a man made of snow (although both are true), but I learned to recognize winter as a season with its own worth. This appreciation is part of Scandinavian culture and as a native weather-complainer, I found it fascinating.

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A mother once explained to me that Scandinavian children are taught the value of all the seasons. I soon realized that rainy-day recess at school did not exist. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” is a popular saying in Nordic lands. Not only have I found this to be true (and have stocked up on wool and waterproofs accordingly), but it began to resonate with me as a beautiful way to encourage outdoor exploration during any time of year.

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Apart from a wooly Icelandic sweater, another Nordic winter secret can be found indoors, complete with dim lighting, fleecy sheepskin, and more candlelight than any other region of the world. In Denmark, they have a word for this – hygge – described as a mental state, rather than physical. Whether it be tea, wine, soft blankets, a roaring fire or family and friends…cold is combated by warmth, in every sense of the word.

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We can’t forget the spectacular northern lights! Best seen in the winter months when darkness reigns. The aurora borealus might be enough to get you packing your wooliest sweater and heading north into the cold, dark (and ever-so-cozy) Nordic regions. If not, perhaps this post will help you get through the rest of winter, or until your next trip to sunnier skies.

Ask us when to see the northern lights in Iceland!

Mountain Muesli and Other Icelandic Specialties

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I don’t think I’ll go on another camping trip or overnight trek without three essentials: muesli, cocoa powder and hot water. Mixed together, these three ingredients make an easy, on-the-go breakfast of chocolaty, hot cereal, which our trekking guide referred to as “mountain muesli”. Okay, it may not be an Icelandic specialty, but after 2 days of trekking amidst mossy mountainsides and volcanic craters, this simple recipe became the breakfast of champions. We also had the best pan-fried trout I have ever eaten; but everything tastes better after a day of trekking, doesn’t it?

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With the appreciation for healthier, less processed and more sustainable foods on the rise, it is no wonder that Nordic cuisine has received so much praise recently. For example, Copenhagen’s Noma has secured the title of ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ for a few years running. While some may find Noma a little too daring (smoked moss and beef tartare with ants, anyone?) Nordic countries deserve praise for their fresh and innovative fare. Iceland’s cooler climate means there is less need for pesticides, so most farms in Iceland don’t use them. With clean mountain air and unpolluted soil and water, Iceland produces some of the purest food on the planet. Staples in Icelandic cuisine include lamb, seafood and dairy. To truly experience this, don’t forget to ask us about farm-to-table dining opportunities.

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On a food tour in Reykjavik, I had the pleasure of sampling lots of traditional foods. This is a great introduction to the cuisine and the history of the city at the same time. My favorite Icelandic food discovery? Skyr: similar to Greek yogurt in that it is thick and creamy, yet with four times the protein, calcium and vitamins of milk. It is low in sugar and has no fat. It is delicious topped with muesli, seeds, nuts, berries and a little maple syrup. Need I say more?

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If I had to choose one, my least favorite Icelandic food experience would have to be the fermented shark. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I had been warned. The smell was worse than the taste. A swig of Brennivín (Icelandic schnapps) will wash it right down. The dried shark, on the other hand, I rather liked. It’s a bit like fish-jerky, if you can imagine – dry and salty – and the custom of smearing it with butter, is right up my alley.

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Also, my mouth waters thinking about the lobster at Fjöruborðið. Between visiting a beautiful, secluded black beach at sunset and waiting for darkness to fall, we had a fabulous meal here. Icelandic lobster may be small in size, but it is big on flavor. Ask us about our ‘Lobster and Northern Lights’ tours.

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The freshly made fish soup at Hotel Búðir (arguably one of the best places to eat on the Snæfellsnes peninsula) was also exceptional.

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Although seafood was definitely a theme as I tasted my way through Iceland, the quality and freshness of everything I ate was what impressed me the most. From hotel breakfasts (like the one at Hotel Egilsen) and lunch buffets (like at the Settlement Center in Borganes), to fancy evening meals (lobster and wine), Icelanders are proud of everything they bring to the table.

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