Ok Bistro, Borgarnes, Iceland

As my trip in Iceland continued, made it to Borgarnes.

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The first night there, checked out one of the few restaurants, Ok Bistro. The name comes from ‘Ok jökull in Borgarfjörður which through the centuries has been the smallest glacier in Iceland. In the last couple of decades it has retreated steadily and in 2014 Icelandic geologists removed the glacier status of Ok. The mountain Ok still stands tall at 1200 meters and it´s located to the west of way bigger Langjökull.’

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The restaurant was recommended by the hotel and has a high rating. Started dinner with an Einstök Icelandic White Ale. Very nice with a taste of coriander and orange. I was expecting a bit of a hefe-likeness/cloudimess to it but not at all.

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We ordered a bread basket (some places give bread free, some don’t). It was freshly baked bread with mixed pepper hummus 890 kr. Tasty.

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For a main course, started with the Minke Whale. Had heard about the whale and wanted to try it. Read about it, too, and the pros/cons. The minke is ok to eat. This was a small plate, which is what we wanted so as to just get a sample.

Grilled Steak of Minke Whale with blueberry and brennivín jam, bacon bits and birch syrup, smoked mushrooms in cream sauce (they kindly put the mushrooms in sauce on the side). 2890 kr

This was amazing. They were small pieces and everything else on the plate made it outstanding. Nice and tender and unique taste. Very glad I got to try it!

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We then wanted something else simple and the chef was able to made us a basic salad (yes, veggies). It was perfect. Just simple ingredients. And at this point, I didn’t care how much veggies cost.

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Great restaurant to check out and you looked right at mountains and water. Glad we went.

And some of the views in the area of Borgarnes include:

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Icelandic Chocolate

While on my trip, kept seeing these Traditional Icelandic Chocolate bars by Nói Síríus. There were several options, from Milk to Mint to Dark. Of course I opted for the Dark. What was interesting is that the Dark was only 45% Dark Chocolate. There was no dairy in it, fortunately. Finally broke down and bought one.

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It had a unique taste to it, and after reading over the ingredient list again, it has bourbon vanilla in it. It tasted similar to chicory to me though. Worth trying, not my favorite dark chocolate, however. Fairly sweet for dark chocolate. And still not sure what makes it Icelandic. And much prefer something that’s 73% dark.

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More Lunch on the Road

Progressing on the trip in Iceland, you don’t necessarily want to eat PBJ each day. Some food was also brought from home. So one day we enjoyed some great individual packs of Bumble Bee Light Tuna, Trader Joe’s Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Trader Joe’s Marinated Olives, and some of the bread we bought for the PBJs. We also had a bit of wine left to kill that we’d bought a couple days prior. So we had paper coffee cups from a hotel brunch and probably each got half a glass of Trapiche Malbec. Living the high life!

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This was also on a day that was sunny. Only reason we had to sit in the car was because of the million mile an hour winds we had (90% of the time we were in Iceland). Enjoyed this while visiting Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvellir in English) and seeing some other beautiful sites.

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Strondin Bistro & Bar, Vik, Iceland

Was in Vik for two nights and had the choice of pretty much two restaurants. Might as well cover the territory. So the 2nd night checked out Strondin Bistro & Bar.

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A good amount to pick from on the menu but soup was something I really wanted because by Day 3 of the trip I felt like we’d have about a week of rain. Lamb is not a meat I truly have a taste for but that was the only thing I could pick from because the other soup/stew was diary based. So I went for the:

Heimalöguð íslensk kjötsúpa – Homemade Iceland traditional meat soup with lamb and root vegetables. 2,300kr.

It was quite good. The taste in the lamb was very subtle. And the rest of the ingredients were potatoes, onions, carrots that were very nice. The warmth brought it all together.

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Also needed some veggies. Iceland does not have an abundance of these things. But this Strondin place had a Miðjarðarhafssalt: salat m/sólÞurrkuðum tómötum, ólifum, fetaosti, tomötum, agurku og paprika – Mediterranean: salad with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 1,750 kr.

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That had to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ignoring the lack of veggies the prior few days, the unique combo of sun-dried and ‘regular’ tomatoes in the salad and the dressing it had; SO good!

They also had some delicious bread with some kind of herbs in it to make all this even better, that was just brought to the table.

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Finally, was enjoying all this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Maronde Pionero from Chile, 1,250 kr. Wine was pricey as usual, but at least since I live in the DC-area, it wasn’t total sticker-shock.

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What also makes a dinner amazing is the staff. A bit shout out to Antonio, Jan and Lammi. They provided great service, making this dinner even better. Thanks!! So, when you’re in Vik, check this place out.

Also, this yellow object started coming out in the sky when we walked out of the restaurant, it was tough to identify. But it provided us this scenery.

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Viking and Einstök

Moving across the country in Iceland meant new hotel, new happy hour. Wow, this hotel in Vik actually had a 3-hour Happy Hour – 4pm-7pm. We could stay out late doing tourist stuff!

The two brews on tap we sampled in Vik were Viking Lager and Einstök Pale Ale.

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Viking Lager, per the site: The most popular draught beer in Iceland for some years, it is pleasantly mild with a slightly sweet flavour. Less filling and more refreshing than many other beers, it’s ideal for those who prefer a medium-strength beer with less bitterness. Tasting notes: Light golden, little sweetness, light, limited bitterness, corn, beans. ABV 4.5%.

My notes: A bit on the light side, nonetheless good. I like my beer to have a bit more body.

Einstök Pale Ale, per the site: Brewed 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, we balance three kinds of hops with pure Icelandic water to create an ale unlike any other. It can only be described as an Arctic Pale Ale and it’s truly one of a kind. Cascade hops give it American character, while Northern Brewer and Hallertau Tradition add just enough bitterness to make this ale refreshingly Icelandic – and to make everything else pale in comparison. Key Ingredients: Pale ale malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt, American and Bavarian hops.  ABV 5.6%

My notes: Good crisp beer, not hoppy, good body and color, perfect to drink after a day on the road.

And, since these were both enjoyed at happy hour, bargain price at 50% off bringing them to about $8/pint. Cheers!

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Berg Restaurant, Vik, Iceland

As my trip in Iceland continued, I drove further east and arrived in Vik.

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It’s a small town and there are about two restaurants. So on night one, dinner was at the restaurant in the hotel, Berg. Per the website, “in Icelandic, Berg means “mountain,” a word that not only symbolizes the powerful forces from which this rugged island-nation was formed but, the also the sentiment their beauty inspires. Creativity and inspiration are what drive our chefs, who invite you to sample our delicious Icelandic cuisine made with the freshest local ingredients.”

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While browsing through the menu, the taste of the house came out with bread, salmon on cukes and butter with some type of herb.

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Ordered a nice Sauvignon Blanc – wine wasn’t too cheap. Well over $50/bottle for not overly fancy stuff.

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After looking over the menu, meal choices ended up being:

Appetizer of:

Tiger Shrimps (yes the plural version) in a mango and chili sauce with coconut rice. kr 2,490. Good taste and amazingly coconut-y rice! A bit heavy on the sauce.

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Marinated Chicken Leg with potato dippers and salad with green pesto and garlic skyr (which was on the side) kr. 3,900  A nice salad on the side. One of us had mozzarella balls, the other skipped them.

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Dinner was very nice, and very plentiful. And just had to go back upstairs after finishing.  No long trek ‘home’.

Also, had I mentioned it rained a lot in Iceland? View from hotel room.

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We Love to … and it Shows

Well, I love to travel, and it shows. You can see my loads of pictures, hear my stories, look at my passport when it’s international (though it’s not stamped as much as many of my friends). And, sometimes see my wine rack (and the blog).

A lot of travel requires flying. Things happen. I don’t really have anything to say about what has happened in the flight world the past several weeks. When I have traveled recently a friend gave me drink coupons to receive free vino on my flights with the airline associated with the recent media…score! On my flight outbound, I had mentioned something to the flight attendant about wine and she said ‘I don’t want your drink ticket. Why should I take it, we both love wine?’ Don’t have to say that to me twice. She also gave the guy across the aisle a free beer because he had helped with something. Cool.

On my way back I asked what the premium wines were. The flight attendant said Malbec. And the premiums are twice as much as the ‘normal,’ so didn’t know if I would need to provide two tickets. He just handed me this split of wine, a nice plastic cup and pushed that cart on its merry way. And, note, the price might be twice as much but you also get twice the volume (a split vs a one-glass size).

I might be the lucky one, I don’t know if an airline is working hard to repair something. I have a friend who works for this company and don’t know how that person is doing. But, right then and there, I was loving enjoying my Malbec and it showed (don’t take that in some crazy inappropriate way) thanks to the service. Cheers!

Side note, as a bonus, the person I met for a getaway weekend was flying home to a different destination. We saw that at a gate next to mine there was a flight leaving to her destination two hours earlier than the flight she was slated to be on. I told her to go ask if she could get on that flight. Success with zero change fee! Simple things.

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Brazil Nuts

The other day I was offered some cashews and I wasn’t very hungry so turned them down. But then I was told they were from Argentina and this guy’s mom picks and them toasts them herself. Then she sends them up him (her son). I could see there was something unique about them from far away because of the dark and sometimes tiny black accents on them. Had one…wow. Most amazing cashew I’ve ever had. These things were also enormous!

Made me think about Brazil nuts and my trip to Brazil a few years ago. Overall, I love nuts. But, I usually avoid buying mixed nuts because of those darn huge Brazil nuts that take up so much space in the container. They are a bit tasteless and almost chewy.

Well, when I was in Brazil, we visited a local market in Manaus on the last day. Think of something like Pike Place in Seattle on beyond illegal steroids. Among other local stuff, they had Brazil nuts and I told the guide how they weren’t my favorite. So, he grabs one, whips out his machete and shells the thing. He says ‘try it.’ Staring at it, it was just bright and a bit moist. Take a bite, it’s almost like candy. So good, nothing like we get here. It totally changed my perspective on Brazil nuts. I came back to the US hoping all these nuts had followed me on the plane, but of course when I opened a package of them or purchased them in bulk, they apparently had not boarded the plane…

Another reason I love traveling, enjoying the true local fare.

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Southwest Has It Right

In the air, the drink cart comes down the aisle. I had one of the drink coupons that my awesome fitness class students give me because they don’t use them before they expire.  What more could I ask for from people who I get to workout?!?!

I was handed the napkin, then the drink (wine, duh). The tagline was far too perfect: Now for something really refreshing. Southwest Airlines, keep it coming. Now I just need to be sure I get more of those drink tickets. Cheers!

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Brazil Flashback

I have been thinking back to my trip to Brazil several years ago while watching the Olympics.  Most of it came while watching a soccer game the other day, which was played in Manaus.  I took a week-long trip in the Amazon on the Rio Negro.  We were on a 16-person vessel with a trip through REI.  This river begins in Manaus and heads north.  The sight of it is amazing because when it and the Amazon intersect the difference is so distinct — black and brown. This is because of the speed of the water, not because of the direction of the currents.

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Aside from some of the great sights, the fun food pieces were:

Piranha fishing.  Oh, we got to go for them.  You literally have a stick and tap the water and they eventually bite the lure.  And the best thing — you eat them, they don’t eat you.  Check out the teeth!  They really do have them.

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On the boat we could have beer and wine.  What was the beer that we enjoyed at lot, as we were so close to the equator?  Yes you’re reading the can right…Antarctica.  Just a light one, great for the hot days.  It’s a pils.  And unfortunately in the whole grand scheme of the beer world, Budweiser owns this beer.

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Towards the end of the trip we had true local drinks.  We were taught how to make Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail.  The key ingredients — cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage.  The first night our guide showed us how to make the great drink then on the final night we got to make them ourselves.

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