Shooting episodes for our new travel show is exciting and challenging. Unlike traveling alone, as I’ve noted before, I’ve got a film crew in tow and here in Iceland a tough schedule. I’ve got a ferry to Denmark that is fixed and the film crew have a flight to Vancouver the same day. As such, I have less freedom to take extra days to explore, plus with bad luck weather, it’s important to focus on finding interesting stories.
Just across the street from our campsite at Vogar, amidst the level fields in Myvatn, a story just dropped in my lap. Instead of resorting to pizza at Vogar’s Daddi’s, we ventured across the street to Vogafjós a guesthouse, restaurant, and cowshed. The cowshed is a fully working dairy farm where each morning cows are milked and led to pasture.
The property consists of a large barn, estate residence, smokehouse, and dozens of acres of land, and even an island on Lake Myvatn. The crew joined me for dinner of organic and local sourced food. I enjoyed tender lamb from sheep raised on steep hillsides at a neighboring property, along with fresh Geyser rye bread and cheese made from fresh cows milk. Pan and Johnny A enjoyed what they described as some of the best burgers—ever. Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering a bottle of red wine from the Rhone region in France. I was so intrigued by the professional service, fresh food and the love I could see throughout the restaurant that I was determined to meet the multigenerational family that runs the property.
Ólöf Hallgrimsdóttir, an elegant, yet sturdy woman, manages the facility along with her brother. We arranged to meet with Ólöf the following morning after I had an opportunity to help milk a couple of the cows. The taste of fresh cows milk, right from the source, is like no milk I’ve ever tasted. It was sweet, creamy and with a nice viscous texture. The young guy showing me how to milk, Ólöf’s nephew, spent a couple years studying in Reykjavik told me that at school he couldn’t stomach the milk as he’s been spoiled by fresh organic and unpasteurized milk from his farm.
Afterwords, I joined Ólöf for a walk around the farm, to the river’s edge where she shared with me the story of her family’s farm. After a devastating volcano in the early 1900’s thousands of local farmers around this part of Iceland abandoned their properties because the ash made the land inhospitable and not farmable.
Like so many others in this area, her great grandfather made the long pilgrimage to Husavik where he waited for a ship to take him to Italy. Sadly, he fell ill and died before he could leave iceland. The simple twist of fate resulted in Ólöf and her family remaining in Iceland and ultimately taking over the farm years later as the land returned to being arable.
After our walk we sat down on the outdoor patio of the restaurant where I had a chance to sample smoked arctic char, salmon, and sea trout that Ólöf smoked herself. A sampling of more rye bread, and jams, greens and other goodies made fresh in her kitchen and restaurant. To top off the delicious spread, I enjoyed a shot of Icelandic schnapps, not unlike the infamous Brennivín, except this cocktail was crafted her at Vogafjós and flavored with seeds from a plant that only blossoms a few months and grows on the fertile volcanic soil of the islands in Myvatn.
I know the film crew would’ve rather me have experienced sheeps head soup, fermented shark, or another dose of Iceland hot dogs, but the truth is Iceland food is excellent. Don’t let the internet searches of shock value content dissuade you from exploring Icelandic cuisine. After my experience in Lónkot and now at Vogafjós, and several good meals and tasty bone-warming fish soup, I can say Iceland has turned the corner on its culinary cuisine. Yes, it can be expensive, but you will find good food in Iceland.
Here’s a quick video clip from a Facebook Live post I broadcasted while at Vogafjós
Hanging with 3rd generation Icelandic farmers in north eastern Iceland #bordertoborder #worldrider Panayioti Yannitsos John Angus Jamie Spittal
Posted by Allan Karl on Wednesday, July 13, 2016