The Taste of Iceland, November 1 – 5, gives us a weekend jam-packed with all things Icelandic. Iceland Naturally’s famous cultural festival features several mostly free events throughout Toronto that highlight the best of Iceland’s unique culture, music, design, film and more.
Over one million Canadians visit Iceland every year. It seems in the past few years, Iceland has become high on our “must visit” list. Legend has it that Icelandic boat-carrying settlers to Canada, encountered an early winter on Lake Winnipeg and could not proceed. This hardy group disembarked in the little village of Gimli, Manitoba. Today, Gimli is Winnipeg’s favorite summer resort town, and Gimli is a hub of Icelandic culture. Lady Eaton is just one of the renowned folks who grew up in Gimli.
As a guest of the Taste of Iceland, I had the good fortune to enjoy an exceptionally sophisticated evening at Lena, where Icelandic culinary expert Chef Fannar Vernharosson, working alongside Executive Chef Julie Marteleira created various unique dishes that blended Icelandic delicacies with a Canadian twist. Adding excitement to this dinner, was the fact that all the ingredients used were chosen by Chef Fannar and brought with him from Iceland. Imagine the paperwork for customs!
Arctic Char Tartare with egg cream, trout roe and dulse gave us the flavour of the sea and a texture of silk. Pan fried Langoustine Tail with apple, yuza, fennel came jauntily capped by a spoonful of celery granita, offered a delightful juxtaposition of textures.
But it was the grilled lamb sirloin with celeriac puree, baked garlic, and luxurious shitake mushroom glaze that made us all yearn to visit Iceland and eat an abundance of this dish. Apparently, the lambs just graze on the grassy hillsides, feeding on the herbs that proliferate, stress-free, under the eye of a few shephards until they are ready for market. The flavour and texture of this lamb is unique and delicate, and interestingly enough, it is served cooked-through and not medium rare in the Toronto style.
Dessert too, was a surprise to our palates. Creamy Skyr is sour cream ice cream, partnered with crunchy chunks of baked white chocolate, drizzled with malted barley syrup, and topped with a granita of sorrel and hops.
Wine pairing is offered with each course, but I chose instead to stick with Reyka, Iceland’s vodka which gets its extraordinary smoothness from a filtering process through volcanic rock. This vodka goes well with every course, or on it’s own.
An unforgettable Icelandic Menu at Lena, November 1 – 4, with custom cocktails by Icelandic mixologist Teltur Ridderman, showcases some of the most exquisite Icelandic meals and cocktails in combination with our local flavours. Get tickets here: lenarestaurante.com/news/taste-iceland-2018
Iceland’s thriving Design and Architectural Scene is at the Spoke Club, until November 5.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.