Snapshots from Iceland: Eldhús, the Smallest Icelandic Restaurant on Wheels
There's that fantastic scene in Pixar's Up when the old man Carl Fredricksen's house is lifted up into the clouds by a bundle of helium balloons, and off it floats to Paradise Falls. That image was the inspiration behind Eldhús, an actual house built to scoot around (on wheels, not via balloons) all over Iceland for twelve days, showcasing local Icelandic flavors from a different chef each night. Maximum occupancy at the dinner table inside: six diners.
Thanks to the folks behind the campaign Inspired by Iceland, we got to experience a dinner inside Eldhús—which means "kitchen" but literally translates to "fire house"—on its last night, when it was parked at the corner of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur (just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) in downtown Reykjavik. You probably couldn't get away with parking a house on the corner of two of the busiest shopping streets in many other capital cities, but that's part of Reykjavik's charm.
Dinner was prepared by two talented chefs, Fannar of Vox restaurant and Ægir of Satt. Given the tight quarters inside—picture a minivan interior—they did some prepping at their restaurants ahead of time, but set up a makeshift grill outside Eldhús that night for the lamb. Note: Icelanders are very proud of their lamb; it's right up there with skyr. More on skyr soon.
The meal started with a pile of potato chips sprinkled with dill and Icelandic salt for munching while the chefs plated a starter of cold-smoked arctic char with beets, pickled onions, bright herbs, crumbles of a simple homemade cheese, and toasted rye breadcrumbs on top. Then came the "backyard"-grilled lamb tenderloin served family-style with red cabbage, swede (Swedish turnip), and barley.
You might not expect to see such colorful produce and verdant herbs from icy Iceland but all over the country they power greenhouses with geothermal energy—the same energy responsible for the steamy, mystical Blue Lagoon—that yield veggies more reminiscent of California than Iceland. Just outside Reykjavik for example there's a town called Hveragerði, or "the Blossoming Town," full of greenhouses.
During its twelve-day tour in March, the Eldhús parked for dinners at the Blue Lagoon, under the Snaefellsjökull glacier (did we all just say Snuffleupagus in our heads?), on a pond (not near, but actually on), and other breathtaking spots around the country. Unfortunately the tour is over now but here's a glimpse at what was served inside the little house at our meal.