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Friday, June 28, 2013

Icelandic Spa Day: The Blue Lagoon

There is a lava field out in Grindavik, Iceland. It is a haven for, well, tourists! So I ventured 24 miles outside of Reykjavik to take a dip into the sulphur-rich geothermal spa. The blue lagoon is rich in minerals and on average it's 100 degrees, so it has been known to heal skin ailments such as psoriasis.

The trap? It's pricey! And don't expect a towel or bathrobe to be included in the price. An extra charge (approximately $13) was added on to the entrance fee/bus ride price per person (approximately $80). On the plus side, the bus picked us right up at the hotel, as most buses do. Then we transferred to a larger bus at the main bus terminal. From there it was a 30 minute ride.

I felt like we arrived on Mars. The milky blue water was glowing despite the fog and mist that hovered above the lagoon. I changed out of my comfortable winter gear, and reluctantly put on a bathing suit. As I walked through the locker room barefoot (Frye boots were a bad choice for swimwear) I tiptoed in and out of puddles. Some warm, some cold, neither made me feel better about navigating to a shower room with the chilling breeze of Icelandic boobies flapping at me. Finally, I walk outside where the lagoon awaits me. It's 50 degrees out, but I have my expensive robe rental to keep me warm for now. Once I'm in the lagoon I realize this is pretty nice.

Ladies, tie your hair up. With such high amounts of salt in this water, your hair will basically crack in half if it gets wet. One tourist said it took her three days of washing her hair before it was back to normal. Swim up to the bar and buy a face mask, a smoothie, or a beer. Float around and let the water heal you!

Now I'm sure there are less expensive less touristy geothermal spas out there, but this is one of the top attractions in the country, so I suggest you just try it out if you ever find yourself in Iceland!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Icelandic Cuisine: Whale and Lamb

We went for dinner at Fish Market in Reykjavik to try a few staple Icelandic dishes. First, we are given bread plate with a spicy mayo dipping sauce. And from the chef, a delicious salmon tartare crisp. The restaurant was upscale, in the heart of Reykjavik, and dimly lit despite the 10PM sunshine peeking through blackout curtains.

Minke Whale was our appetizer of choice. We were told it has a similar taste to steak, so what could be bad about that? It came to our table raw in the center, and seared on the outside. The plate was garnished with radishes and a ginger soy dipping sauce. Upon my first bite I think the flavor isn't bad. Then I start to chew and I envision Free Willy. I am not sure if this was totally in my head, but it had a blubbery texture. Needless to say, I won't try whale again! My second piece almost came back up. Grossssss.

For the main course, a plate of lamb with artichoke purée and pickled beets. Amazing! It made up for the sad appetizer. I'm having guilt about eating whale, especially because so many activists on the streets of Reykjavik were trying to get us to sign a "Save the Whales" petition. Needless to say, I didn't sign it. And in my defense, the Minke Whale is on the "not at risk" category as far as endangerment goes. Okay, now I can sleep at night!

The Street Food of Reykjavik

I landed in Iceland with 24 hours to try some of the local cuisine. I heard about hákarl, fermented shark, by a tourist from Norway. He described the taste to be similar to "ammonia" so I decided I should skip this delicacy. Maybe next time.

Instead, I started things off easy with what some say is the national food of Iceland, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs! This small red hot dog stand has had a line of locals waiting for the 360 krónas ($3) street food since 1939. The sweet little old lady working in the hot dog stand suggested I go for "the works" so I had my dog with ketchup, honey mustard, fried and raw onions, and a relish mayo sauce. It was perfectly sweet and savory with a crunch!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NYC to Montauk: Best Lobster Rolls

This summer I am on a crustacean kick. How gross does that sound? Whatever! I love every little cockroach of the sea right now including shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, mussels, etc.
While I used to give the stink eye to people indulging in that fishy mayo slop on a hot dog bun, I grew to understand it. And now I am obsessed. You see, it's not fishy at all. And there's not that much mayo. Add some seasoning and celery, and BAM! You good!

1. SoHo NYC: Ed's Lobster Bar

$29 will get you a heavenly lobster roll with fries. It was very filling, and although I've had cheaper, the flavor and atmosphere made up for it. Ed's is lively and fun, and they have a raw bar too. I complimented my lobster roll with an Oyster Bloody Mary.

2. Brooklyn: Red Hook Lobster Pound
This Red Hook lobster roll is $16 worth of perfectly cooked fresh lobster. After all, this roll in particular has been rated as a top lobster roll by Time Out New York and Zagat. The flavor was great. Not too much mayo, just the right amount of spices, and plenty of meat. This may be in my top two favorite, and it's mainly because of how perfectly cooked the meat was. Not at all overcooked like so many do..

3. Merrick, Long Island:
Left Coast Kitchen

$20 is nothing for the amount of lobster you get in this roll. They prepare it with a ton of claws (my favorite) piled on top. They definitely DO NOT skimp on lobster. The meat is so tender and seasoned perfectly, accompanied by house made chips and slaw. Left Coast Kitchen is one of my favorite restaurants for their lobster/seafood dishes. 

4. Long Beach, Long Island: MaliBlue Oyster Bar

For the reasonable price of $13 you get TWO lobster rolls. But don't be fooled, the bread is cut shallow and it's so thick you might as well man up and scoop all the meat into one for a more authentic (messy) lobster roll feel. This was not my favorite roll of them all. Smaller pieces of meat, not the best flavor I've had. But what they may lack in their roll they make up for with $2 beers at the bar during happy hour! I just love that it's a casual beach joint with live music. I have a soft spot for summer spots like this on Long Island!

5. Sag Harbor, Long Island: Madison & Main 

The flavor was outstanding for the standard price of $18! Crunchy and soft. Not too much mayo. Toasted bun. It was a lobster roll to remember. The entire dining experience at Madison & Main was memorable. Check it out for a more upscale lobster roll.

6. Amagansett, Long Island: Lunch Lobster Roll

$24 is the going rate for this famous lobster roll. It's my mandatory pit stop off Montauk Highway right before hitting Montauk. The bread was lightly grilled and chunks of lobster meat spilled over the edges. The celery slices gave it a fresh flavor. I love my fries with coleslaw and that's exactly what I got on my dish! Perfection. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tokyo Brunch

Two Rooms Grill

It was a perfect weather day. No humidity, sunshine, mid-70's temperature. And it was Mother's Day. We went to the AO building in Minato-ku, crazy looking place, and ate outside at this ultra modern international grill. Infinity ponds surrounded the rooftop tables, and we sat at a high top table with bar stools, facing the city skyline. It was an incredible view. The menu wasn't quite Japanese (shameful tourists we are) but it was so good, I had no regrets. I had a Bloody Mary that was garnished with a bushy stalk of celery. For brunch, I ate the spanner & zwai crab cake wrap. It was DA BOMB, I kid you not! I was so happy to hear that brunch is celebrated in Tokyo the way it is cherished by us in the west. The atmosphere reminded me a lot of New York. Whenever I looked out into the skyline I knew it was similar, but still so far from home.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Roppongi Eats

I ventured out to the area in Tokyo known as Roppongi. It was a rainy day in May, so when I got out from the metro it just looked like any gloomy city street. I didn't get to explore as much as I would've liked, but I made my way to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for a drink on one of the higher floors where the view was foggy and gray. Espresso Martini's all around! It was a nice break in the day to dry up out of the torrential downpour.

It was a blessing to find the Ritz, since there was a mega mall attached to it! I could literally spend the entire day getting spa treatments, taking cooking classes, shopping, and fine-dining. It was called Midtown. A multilevel shopping center where I spent the entirety of my day.

It was my mom's birthday, and we went to lunch at Kisentei. It's a Teppenyaki restaurant, which I declared is "the REAL Benihana's"! The chef (Japanese, studied in the US) cooked in front of us while we overlooked the Tokyo rainfall out the window. The waitresses took our handbags and placed them in baskets covered with linen clothes behind our seats to avoid any splatter from the grill. We also wore plastic aprons for the same reason, a novelty that surprisingly didn't translate to the Benihana chains in the states.

While mom ordered a delicious steak with veggies and garlic fried rice, I had the king crab leg. Both entrees were steamed then grilled and tasted like heaven. We washed it down with a couple of Asahi beers.

Afterwards, we stopped at a tea-and-dessert-only restaurant in Midtown shopping center. We tried a few green tea flavored desserts, the shaved ice was kind of bland until you hit a scary mound of sugary red bean slop. It did not make sense. I still don't understand these desserts. Gelatinous, gummy, bland, and bitter have still not won me over. I'm trying! However, the green tea soft serve ice cream was pretty delicious!