Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Characters Fine Dining Brings a Moolicious Taste of Iceland

Iceland Air recently announced that it would be flying out of the Edmonton International Airport, offering more choices to travellers looking to travel to European destinations. A big bonus that Iceland Air will be offering is a stop over in Reykjavik for no additional charges before heading onto your final destination. I’m pretty excited about this since I love travelling to Europe, and until now, those flying out of Edmonton didn’t have a lot of options, but hopefully with the arrival of Iceland Air, it will create more competition and better prices for travellers.

Harofiskur - Icelandic Dried Fish
with Butter
In order to celebrate Iceland Air’s inaugural flight out of Edmonton and their new partnership with the Edmonton International Airport, Iceland Naturally, who promotes Iceland internationally is putting on a series of events this weekend in Edmonton to promote Icelandic food and culture, and to encourage tourism to Iceland, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one such event to get a sneak peek.

Deep Fried Crispy Balls of Cod with Sol
Aioli Sauce
Held at Characters Fine Dining, like the rest of their events, they wanted to showcase the collaboration between Iceland and Edmonton, in this case showcasing Icelandic food by having Chef Hákon Már Örvarsson, an accomplished chef from Iceland, work with Edmonton’s own, Chef Shonn, owner and Executive Chef of Characters Fine Dining.

Pickled Herring on Sweet Rye Bread
with Curry Dressing, Green Apples and Spring Onions
We began with an array of traditional tapas style dishes, including “Harðfiskur” which is an Icelandic dried fish with butter. Although I found it a bit hard to eat as it had a jerky like texture and required a lot of chewing, it was only one of two dishes that I didn’t quite enjoy. The other dish in question was the deep fried crispy balls of cod with “ Söl” aioli sauce. Although the exterior was perfectly crisp, the inside was a bit salty and mealy for my liking.

Cured Salmon in Brennivín with
lemon sour cream and lumpfish caviar
The pickled herring served on a sweet rye bread with curry dressing, green apples and spring onions tasted refreshing and had a tangy finish. Meanwhile the cured salmon in “Brennivín” with lemon-sour cream, cress and lumpfish caviar was so soft it melted in my mouth. The lemon-sour cream tasted bright, and the richness of the salmon and sour cream was balanced out with the salty caviar. My favorite dish of the night was the grilled Icelandic langoustine tails with garlic and herbs. The langoustine was similar to lobster in taste and texture, although significantly smaller, they were plump, and incredibly succulent.

Grilled Icelandic Langoustine Tails with Garlic and Herbs
For entrees they served a cold smoked and gently cooked filet of farmed, Icelandic arctic char. Served with honey-grain mustard dressing, flan of horseradish and dill oil, it was light, flaky, and luxurious in the mouth. The seared and slowly cooked filet of free range Icelandic lamb with glazed root vegetables, celeriac puree, juniper berry infused lamb jus reduction, dust of dried wild Icelandic herbs and blueberries was unbelievably tender and moist.

Cold Smoked and Gently Cooked Filet of
Farmed Arctic Char with Honey-Grain Mustard Dressing
Flan of Horseradish and Dill Oil
For dessert, they served Skyr of the Vikings, which consisted of a delicate mousse of Icelandic Skyr, jelly of apples and crispy oat hazelnut crumble, served with cinnamon flavoured poached rhubarb. Skyr is traditionally a breakfast ingredient, a cultured dairy product that is similar to yogurt. The mousse had a creamy, cheesecake like texture with a nice crunch from the crumble on top, and the ice cream had a taste similar to that of frozen yogurt.

Seared and Slowly Cooked Filet of Free
Range Icelandic Lamb with Glazed Root
Vegetables, Celeriac Puree, Juniper Berry
Infused Lamb Jus Reduction, Dust of Dried
Wild Icelandic Herbs and Blueberries
Considering this was the first time I had tasted Icelandic fare other than pickled herring, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the food served that evening and would recommend everyone go out to Characters Fine Dining this weekend and try it. These dishes will be available March 5-8, 2014 at Characters Fine Dining and I recommend you go give them a try! I left feeing satiated and happily full, and commend Chef Shonn and Chef Hákon Már Örvarsson for a well-orchestrated collaboration.

Icelandic Skyr, jelly of apples and crispy oat hazelnut
crumble, served with cinnamon flavoured poached rhubarb
Other events that will be happening around Edmonton for Taste of Iceland including a Reykjavik Calling Concert Series where Icelandic musicians will be partners up with local musicians from Edmonton to collaborate on performances. These will take place the evenings of March 7 and March 8 at The Brixx Bar and Grill at the Starlite Room, and tickets to attend the concert are free. They are also having a contest called #IcelandSecret where participants can win a prize pack courtesy of Iceland Naturally. Several secrets have been hidden throughout Characters Fine Dining, The Brixx Bar and Grill and elsewhere around Edmonton. If you find one of these secrets, simply take a picture and share it via Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #IcelandSecret and #TasteofIceland  and the winner will be picked at the end of the week.

Visit the Taste of Iceland website in order to get tickets for their concert series or more information on their #IcelandSecret contest.

More photos at PhotoBucket!

Characters Fine Dining
10257 105 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5J 1E3
Twitter: @CharactersFood

Characters on Urbanspoon

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