I recently partnered with Wisconsin Cheese to create a dessert highlighting their mascarpone cheese and then film the recipe. I went with my all-time favorite: a berry crumble.
For me, making crumbles is a windows-open-music-on-life-is-good sort of experience. They’re impossible to mess up and they always satisfy. Check out the full recipe plus the video Blake and I shot (and Wisconsin Cheese edited) here.
The day we set out toward the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was sunny and beautiful, and we expected an easy three-hour drive to our destination. Not an hour into the trip we found ourselves in an icy-road-blinding-white snowstorm. We drove on, both silently terrified; there was a significant drop off on both sides, no guard rail, buses passing us at high speeds, etc. We couldn’t pull over (there was no shoulder), we couldn’t turn around, and we didn’t know where we were going — we just had to keep driving. After what seemed like hours but could not have been more than ten minutes, the winter wonderland disappeared and we stopped at the next sign of life (a desolate shark-fishing museum) to figure out where we went wrong. Attempting to avoid driving back through the snows, we detoured to a gravel road for the next five hours. Bumpy riding aside, taking that gravel road was the best decision we ever made. It wrapped around mountains, took us to cliffs overlooking the ocean, through small seaside towns and by so many ponies.
These photos reveal how the majority of Iceland feels: empty. Most of the time, our surroundings looked like a playground for the last people in the universe. After our first night in Reykjavik we made our way to Hveragerði to stay at the guesthouse Frost og Funi (or the Frost & Fire, recommended to us by the Gallo’s). Near the guesthouse was an hour hike which, through mountains and hills and snow and mud, led to a hot steamy river. Swimming in that secluded hot river, surrounded by snow and a below-freezing air chill, was beyond dreamy. Getting out and dressed and hiking the hour back with wet hair was less so.
Another night we slept in Hvolsvöllur – only for the reason that it had a guesthouse with availability and it was somewhat near Vik, a town we knew we wanted to see. We showed up to the Godaland Guesthouse only to find a note to “call if you need to check in.” Phoneless, we drove the ten kilometers back into town where the kind people at the gas station let us use their phone. Twenty minutes later we were back at the guesthouse with the sweet owners who showed us to our room, gave us fresh towels, and left. And aside from Pablo from Andalucía who arrived later that night, we were the only souls in this abandoned-feeling guesthouse/rec center in the middle of nowhere. In retrospect, it was one of my favorite nights. There were no open restaurants around so dinner was yogurt, chocolate, and wine. We listened to the Beginners soundtrack (our go-to at home) and left our door open dorm-style, with Pablo stopping by frequently to chat. He and Blake later took over the giant kitchen and made ramen mixed with doritos. I politely declined.
We got out of the car often — sometimes to see the big attractions (the Skógafoss and Gulfoss waterfalls, the Great Geysir), and sometimes just to pet ponies, climb a little mountain or simply marvel at how small we felt in the vastness of the terrain.
We got back from Iceland around midnight last night and I’m beginning to go through photos — upload and organize and try to mentally process everything we saw, did. It’s so weird returning home from a trip; everything goes back to normal so quickly that it feels like you never actually left.
We spent three non-consecutive nights in Reykjavik and, not expecting much out of it (only because of our enthusiasm for the rest of the country), we loved it. It reminded me of Charleston’s Arctic sister. It’s a super manageable city, small and walkable but filled to the brim with life and energy. A few recommendations:
- - We stayed in a different place each of the three nights. Our favorite by far was a little apartment on the corner of Grettisgata and Klapparstígur called Rey Apartments. Beautiful light, lots of white space, great location, comfy bed, peaceful.
- - Icelandic Fish & Chips: refreshingly clean and simple organic fish dishes (with non-fried options, don't let the name be misleading) plus rosemary roasted potatoes on the side. Also much to my excitement -- sauces! I sampled so many, which are skyr based and flavors like truffle tarragon and basil garlic.
- - Kaffismiðja: a perfectly grungy coffee shop with amazing people watching. It's unmarked from the outside and easy to miss. We spent hours here.
- - The Blue Lagoon, it has to be done. Slightly touristy yes, but who cares. It's incredible. We soaked in the steamy, milky water and drank champagne, surrounded by snowy peaks. It was the ideal welcome to Iceland.
- - Walk! Wandering around was the best way to see the city -- we walked up into the neighborhoods, down by the waterfront, around the harbor, and up to the Hallgrímskirkja church (and then to the top for breathtaking views).
- - A few addendum's from my trusty travel companion: hot dogs, the contemporary art museum filled with thoughtful student work, and any corner store for breakfast in the apartment -- smoked salmon, brown bread, and skyr.