Icelandic Chef Brings Dried Fish and Skyr to Staple & Fancy"/>
There isn't any bread on the "Taste of Iceland" menu set to be served at Staple & Fancy starting tomorrow, but guest chef Hákon Már Örvarsson says the harðfiskur on his appetizer tray is an excellent alternative to toast.
"It was used as a bread," Örvarsson says of the snack. "The whole fish was dried out and eaten with butter."
Leavened breads are a relatively recent addition to the Icelandic food canon, since pantry staples such as flour and sugar weren't widely available in Iceland until the 19th century. Historically, Icelanders have made flatbread by cooking rye and water in a pot hung above a sheep dung fire, with the nation's pastry tradition largely imported by immigrant Scandinavian bakers. Interestingly, Örvarsson briefly ran a sandwich shop near Orlando, where his specialties included nut and fruit breads.
But harðfiskur is more commonly served with flatbread and skyr, the iconic Icelandic dairy product which Örvarsson plans to serve for dessert with oats, hazelnuts, red currants and a cinnamon rhubarb compote. According to an Icelandic food blogger, harðfiskur and skyr are the two native dishes which most fascinate foreigners.
That's likely to be especially true here in Seattle, which is just 17 degrees of latitude south of Iceland. Although Icelanders fish the Atlantic instead of the Pacific, Örvarsson's four-day menu - offered in conjunction with the "Taste of Iceland" event staged by the country's tourism marketing organization - includes such familiar items as pickled herring, baked cod, fingerling potatoes and blueberries.
"It's not necessarily totally different," Örvarsson says. "It's going to be a little bit old and new."
Örvarsson allows the menu, which follows the standard Staple & Fancy $45 format, skews slightly more traditional than the menus at many contemporary Icelandic restaurants.
"We have a lot of very young chefs in Iceland," he says. "The idea is we give you a little insight into what you could experience."