I bought a spread during a long layover in Iceland. It included two types of lamb carpaccio (one smoked in dung), liver pate, pickled ram’s testicles, black lava charcoal crackers, “lava” cheese crackers, a white mold cheese, and a little chocolate. I paired it with birch schnapps.

The flavors are really exotic to me. Most are savory and pleasant. The first lamb carpaccio (far left) is encrusted with fresh herbs and has a delicate flavor common to European cuisine. I devoured it. The traditional lamb carpaccio is smoked in dung and has a pungent smoke flavor. My husband loves it and says it reminds him of a fireplace. Although I’ve been known to love the strangest meats, the flavor tastes to me like a cigar shop smells, and I don’t enjoy it. The liver pate (middle) was described as being like haggis by the shop owner where I bought it. It is firm and easy to slice but not spreadable. The flavor is mild and well-balanced. The liver taste isn’t as strong as the pates that I’m used to. The pickled ram’s testicles (far right, middle row) are spongy with a light acidic flavor that’s really difficult to describe. I’m glad I tried them. My husband was resistant at first for anatomical reasons but he also liked the flavor. The white mold cheese is quite excellent. It has the appearance and texture of a firm brie but the taste is somewhere between a mild camembert and blue cheese.

The black lava charcoal crackers might be my new favorite food in the whole. They are notably earthy and basic with a very pleasant and almost woody taste. They drowned out the flavor of the cheese, so I ate them by themselves and it was delicious. They’d probably be great with jam.

The “lava” cheese crackers are described on the package as being like “when melted cheese drips onto the grill “. They taste like hardened cheddar and would likely be addictive for many people. The chocolate was basic dark chocolate made with arctic water and it had an especially fresh taste.

The birch schnapps (not pictured) was the other standout item. It’s flavor is notably woody and very balanced. I’ve never tasted anything like it before but will definitely be purchasing it every chance I get.

Overall, the Icelandic cuisine seems to be earthy and balanced with distinctive meats and woody notes that are totally new to my palette. I am hoping to visit the country properly next autumn and look forward to trying more of the local foods!

Published by Dr. Daina Crafa

International neuroscientist. I study culture and sometimes make art. Italian-American, currently working in Amsterdam. Professional author. Photohobbyist. Full-time adventurer.

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