Scandinavia: We Went To Iceland!

It’s taken me a while to sit down and write about our big 2018 trip. Some place I’ve been dreaming of going to since I was a young girl at Concordia’s Norwegian Language Village. In 2018 it finally happened, I convinced my parents to take a trip with me to see some of our homeland – Norway, Sweden, and Iceland.

You may be wondering why it’s taken so long to write about (6 months later) if it was such a dream trip. Well, the truth is, I haven’t given myself much time to actually process the trip because of things that were happening concurrently or very shortly after – massive basement flooding and loosing our first fur baby to cancer were just two in a longer list. After 6-months of healing and releasing, I’m finally moving back towards myself and able to look back at that period with more fondness.

Let’s start the vacation!

Mid July, we started our vacation with a stop-over in Iceland. We only spent a couple of days, because Norway was our main highlight and we had no clue what to expect from Iceland. One regret would be not having spent more than 48 hours there – I’d definitely go back for a week or more if I could, just to explore the incredible landscape.

On our first afternoon in Iceland, a wonderful Icelandic couple my dad met at the airport and befriended took us on a short car tour of the countryside neighboring Reykjavik. This is a place you want to get lost in – unspoiled views with life that looks so simple.

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Emerald green lakes.

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Hot springs and cold air.

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Hot springs.

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Gorgeous views.

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Volcanic sand, fog, and bright green vegetation.

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C, me, and my Dad.

Our second day included a bus tour of the southern coast and water falls.

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Waterfalls along the bluffs.

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Skógafoss

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Lunch stop in Vik.

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Basalt cliffs.

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Black sand beaches.

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Seljalandsfoss

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Sólheimajökull Glacier

That evening C and I selected a tasting menu at Grillmarkaðurinn. We elected to have a more traditional set of eats, so it should be noted that there are not many native or traditional vegetables used in Icelandic cuisine. While I tend to eat a more plant based diet at home, when I’m visiting a new place, I will expand my palate to try foods that are more traditional of the region.

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Smoked Arctic Char – Pickled fennel, spiced rye bread, quail egg from Ásgarð and mustard dressing

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Grilled Puffin – Lightly smoked puffin, pickled bilberries and birch

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Shark steak – Tender steak of shark, Icelandic wasabi and soy vinaigrette

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Battered fish – Potatoes, summer vegetables, and sauce

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Horse tenderloin – The tenderloin is a clean muscle. It is the most tender part of the horse

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Lamb fillet – Potato terrine, sauerkraut, lamb shank and wild shiitake-apple glaze

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Dessert platter – ice cream, tropical fruits (obviously not local), lava cakes, chocolate

Our last morning in Iceland was spent touring around Reykjavik before hoping on a flight later that evening for the next stop – Bergen!

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Best chai latte of my life and my introduction to oat milk. Hint: Oat milk makes the creamiest lattes and best non-dairy addition to tea.

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Hallgrímskirkja – magnificent, modern architecture church in Reykjavik

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View from the top of Hallgrímskirkja.

Iceland is most definitely a country I’d like to visit again to spend some time hiking and exploring the whole of the island country.

Next stop, Bergen, Norway.


Portland 2016

The weekend before Thanksgiving, C and I traipsed around Portland. And I’m now just finally getting to writing a bit of a recap. Spoiler – it was fantastic! And I can’t believe I was considering not going. C was there for work and I decided to tag along for the heck of it and to take a much needed mental break from the everyday.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and after dropping suitcases off at our hotel decided to hit up the Deschutes Brewery first. I did a sampling since I had absolutely no idea what to get. I would say I liked 3/4 of them or would consider drinking a full pint.

For dinner we went to Higgins – which I highly recommend to any foodie. You can also grab a place in the bar too if you’d like but we got super lucky with the final open reservation for the evening. We had an onion tart (which I noted was made the same way I make scalloped potatoes – just onions and cream), then for an entree I had the halibut with potatoes, brussels, and Jerusalem artichokes over a cauliflower puree with bacon – super tasty and delicious. We were too full for dessert, but I bet that would have been good too.

We ended our evening with drinks at The Green Room which is below the Multomah Whiskey Library which C would have loved to go to but their was an hour wait and we were exhausted.

Waking up the next morning I found we had a pretty nice rive towards the river.

For brunch we headed out to the next place on my list – Broder Nord. It’s a Scandinavian cafe, how could I not go? And although I was completely starved by the time we arrived (1 hour behind and I’m cranky I didn’t get breakfast an hour earlier), I believe I did a good job with control. 😉

A must eat on my list was the Abelskivers – so perfect with the lemon curd and lingonberry.

For my main meal I ordered the oven baked omelet with red onions and sausage. And THEN for my side, I had to order the lefse with butter and honey on the side. (The main lefse for the day was filled with smoked salmon – sacrilege in my book.) I’ve been raised on lefse for 30 years and you definitely do not put fish in it. I’ve also never seen it fried or reheated to crispy with butter or oil on a griddle, but it wasn’t bad. Perhaps a tad oily, but overall enjoyable even if it doesn’t hold to original or homemade standards. I’m a lefse snob, get over it.


Saturday evening we had dinner at the Raven and Rose. We had warm winter drinks in the Rookery Bar above before dinner – which is a definite recommendation a if you’re looking for someplace cozy. They even had Netflix on – we watched Burn After Reading for our pre-dinner entertainment.

Since we were already content with our pre dinner snacking, we jumped right to entrees. I chose the chicken breast – it was good but not about to blow me away or anything I likely couldn’t replicate at home.

Sunday brunch we headed out to The Screen Door. If you go, I recommend getting in line early. We arrived right at 9am and ended up waiting about 45 minutes. But it was definitely worth it.

Right next door to The Screen Door (excellent business strategy I might add) we got coffee and tea and Kopi Coffee. I got a Chai latte with almond milk and loved the traditional spice (not the watered down Americanized version at all).

Once we finally got in to brunch, we shared two apple turnovers.

And I ordered the cheesy grits with vegetables! I also asked for a poached egg on top for some extra protein. If I could live in this bowl I think I maybe would.

Sunday afternoon I went to a yoga class at Yoga on Yamhill. Even though I teach yoga, I find it refreshing and renewing whenever I can be a student. It was a good class led by the owner of the studio and was pretty packed – I usually take that as a good sign. The only aspect I would have changed is to use more pose names rather than just descriptions of what we were supposed to be doing. As a new person I didn’t always catch on to how I was supposed to be positioned when it only learning method used was auditory and very little visual.

After yoga I made my way over to VooDoo Donut to pick up a last treat for the weekend. I got four – because I definitely intended to share (almost all of it). The maple was for C, we shared a cream filled and a banana peanut butter chocolate fritter, and then the French Cruller was all for me.

The French Cruller is probably my favorite donut ever since I was a kid. I love the eggy holey inside and although it’s a treat, you don’t feel overly stuffed after eating.

On our final evening together in Portland, we hit up Andina which is a really great Peruvian restaurant. Although I still think the original is far superb, this brought back some great memories with the Pisco and empanadas.

By this time it was pouring rain, so we ran over to Rogue Alehouse until it let up. I tried a flight of their ciders and sours. Pretty good, with only one being way too sweet for my taste – I like tart cider and sours rather than sweet.

Portland was a food dream. And although food is really all I mentioned, we did go to the Art Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and explored the Saturday Market. The thing I like to do best in any city is just try to get lost of a little while in its streets – and Portland is definitely someplace you can feel the culture and history in the midst of new buildings or revamped construction popping up all over the place.

I’d visit again.

What are your favorite things to do in a new city? What are some ways that you get lost in a city or explore to its fullest potential? 


Central Restaurante – 2016 #4 Restaurant in the World, Lima

The second of the our reservations at two of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants was the #4 ranked restaurant Central Restaurant located smack in the middle of Miraflores (about half a mile from the apartment we were staying in). We opted to do a lunch reservation and brought along the newly engaged couple (C’s sister and her fiance) – it’s more fun to share with more people! The menu titled “Mater Ecosystems” provided each course with ingredients found at various altitudes.

We started with cocktails – although wine or juice pairings were also an option (we didn’t notice the juice pairing until well into the meal – whomp, whomp – it would have been fantastic). While I can’t recall the exactly, but I think what I ordered was the Pisco Torontel · Aperol · Elderflower Tonic.

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Spiders on a Rock -5M (Sargassum, Limpet, Crab) Our first course consisted of a thin crisp (cheese?) with a crab meat filling set on what could be a rocking coast line.

Valley of the Tree 230M (Avocado, Panca Chili Pepper, Paico) The second course came with avocado in three forms, the first beings fresh chunks of avocado covered in Panca chili pepper. The next being a piece of crunchy brown bread with avocado mousse and edible flowers (beauty through adversity). And lastly an avocado puree covered with petals on a softer sponge.

High Jungle 860M (Yucan, Baston, Bark) This course was not necessarily my favorite. It’s wasn’t bad or not tasteful but maybe seemed that they had been cold too long – almost with a frozen interior (which lent nothing to being able to taste the flavor). It’s always great to try new vegetables, but I was hoping for more with this.

River Scales 180M (River Snails, Gamitana, Sangre di Grado) As the name says, this course was river snails – not something I would have picked out on my own likely, but the snails were sliced very thin and arranged on thin crisp (which did get stuck in my teeth), so the flavor was mild and relatively enjoyable for being my first time eating river snail.

Andean Plateau 3900M (Tunta, Annato, Coca) This was the bread course – a dense corn type bread, a thin bubbly crisp, and bread cooked/smoked in coca leaves (not pictured). Two spreads – a browned butter and a tomato salsa/condensed puree?

Marine Soil -21M (Clams, Sweet Cucumber, Lime) Despite my general dislike of clams and mussels, I really enjoyed this dish. The clams were thinly slices with a great citrusy sauce and covered with seas cucumbers. Yes, sea cucumbers and they were probably the best part about this (sweet and crispy, delicious).

Extreme Stem 2875M (Oca, Mashwa, Elderberry) Another fantastic course – basically the potato or root vegetable dish. Thin starch paper, translucent potatoes, and then potato bites I think look like olives – all with an elderberry sauce that I could drink plain if that was acceptable.

This is what the potatoes look like when whole – Peru has over 300 varieties of potatoes. Being raised on potatoes in Minnesota, I would love this type of variety.

Close Fishing -10M (Octopus, Coral, Barquillo) I know I’ve been saying that almost every course was a really good course, but this was probably my favorite. Grilled octopus, or just octopus in general, is not something I never thought I’d say I like – especially since I’ve tried it more than a few times and could never get over that rubbery texture. Well this octopus was incredible tender and easy to eat (the roasting smell wafted through the restaurant throughout our meal – I probably drooled every time). The coral was made from egg white and also set with a crispy corn chip (?). And once again the sauce was amazing and I can’t find a way to describe it other than that – amazing.

Let’s try and get as close to the sauce as I can, because maybe that will help me smell it again. Seriously though, someone needs to invent a way to trigger smell recall in our brain (or capture it in a camera like device for posterity).

Low Andes Mountain 1800M (Quinoas, Beef, Airampo) Now clearly the photo above is not beef because I opted for the vegetarian option for this. Lime cream (or was it quinoa milk), balls of goodness (black quinoa?), green and blue powders (blue-green algae?)- I actually had no idea what I was eating but it was damn good and incredibly rich. Although after some other research into their vegetarian menu I think it might be the Altiplano and Lake (Black Quinoa and Lime Cream) or Psuedocereal (Andean grains, ciagua, chili pepper, airampo).

I snagged a picture of C’s beef dish – also set in quinoa with shaved beef heart – yep. And apparently it was tasty. All three other dinners thought it was potentially their best course. The airampo gives some of that bright red color.

Green Highlands 1050M (Lucuma, Cacao, Chaco Clay) Now for the first of the desserts – a chocolate ice cream with lucuma cookie (but not quite a cookie – crisp?), and white chocolate with clay curls. Seriously freaking good.

Valley Between the Andes 2190M (Roots, Sanki, Sacha Inchi) Our last dessert course included a camomile type gelatin square and what we thought were chocolate candies.

Well, the thin chips were chocolate but the others had a gel texture with a liquid center. Still good.

Solar Mucilage 200M (O.I. Water, Theobromas) Our last course and palate cleanser (at least for me) was basically sun water. I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly sweet, acidic, salty, beverage while it wasn’t really anyone else’s favorite (more for me!). I never knew water could taste like that but is was weirdly addicting.

All in all we had a fantastic experience – which is exactly how I view these types of restaurants. You come for the food and are slapped in the face by the experience. The only thing I might change is to ask for a better lighting table next time. (…My eyebrows completely disappeared in the photo above because of the lighting – and it was a constant battle to not get shadows over my food pictures.)

Dream trip, dream food.


Peru: Lima

Welcome to Lima, this very sunny, foggy/smoggy, 9 million bodied capital city of Peru on the Pacific Coast. We arrived here in the middle of the night our first night and were at once smacked in the face by the humidity and traffic. We spent one full day in Lime before our excursion to Cusco and then returned for another almost week. Our first day is not really worth mentioning as we spent most of the day trying to figure out our SIM card situation for our phones – very different than Europe or the US, and realizing just how lost we were with the language barrier.

While we made our way into a couple of the other more up scale neighborhoods of Lima (San Isidro and La Molina) we stayed in a fantastic AirBnB apartment in Miraflores. Not being as adventurous we did stick to primarily tourist or expat areas. One things I will note is that it was much hotter (mainly because of the 90% humidity) than I thought and there is definitely not AC everywhere – I was also battling on and off travelers illness. I definitely missed my dry desert climate.

The second week back we stayed nearer to the beach and lots of fantastic restaurants – two coming up, the current #4 and #14 restaurants in the world. We spent much of the week as we do most vacations walking around, exploring, all while waiting for the next meal.

Here are just some snaps of our time in Lima.

Parque Kennedy in Miraflores – also home to (likely) hundreds of feral cats that appear to be well fed and just lounge in the sun all day.

The typical breakfast – three classes of beverages (water, tea, and juice), some sort of egg, and bread or toast.

The central government square – Plaza de Armas. After which we also stopped at the catacombs (but no pictures were allowed).

The cutest coffee shop – Arabica, which we finally stopped in for a beverage our last day.

The best breakfast arepa (sandwich) at Arepa Cafe Miraflores. Owned by a very friendly Venezuelan guy who lived in Miami for a while previously.

Of course you can’t talk about Peru without mentioning the ceviche. I’m totally sold.

We had a fantastic seafood dinner at Alfresco.

After a walk along the beach we stopped in for milkshakes. Maybe not the best idea for someone with moderate lactose intolerance, but it was tasty.

A tremendous plate of meat from Rustica.  And yes, those are chicken kidneys and hearts.

Our last lunch of the trip all together was spent at Amaz. Lots of good food that I probably can’t remember everything at this point. I do however remember being all fished out. I didn’t even know that could happen, but after so many meals from the sea I was ready for some land mammals.

We have casava, chicken rolls, and pork with rice.

All in all an amazing trip and I can’t wait to see more of South America!


Peru: Machu Picchu

Sunday morning we were up and on our way to Machu Picchu! Ever since my 8th grade geography class this has been a place on my bucket list. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century, which doesn’t actually seem that old to me considering the ancient Greeks and Roman were 2,000 years or more ago. The Incan empire itself only  lasted about 100 years (amazing how much they did in that 100 years). Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish and was only rediscovered to the Western World in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

From our hotel in the Sacred Valley, we hoped on a van that brought us to the train station at Ollantaytambo, where we boarded the Peru Rail Expedition train to begin out 1.5 hour journey to Aguas Caliente which is the town at the base of the climb to Machu Picchu. Once in town, we momentarily lost our guide and then boarded a bus to take us to the top.

As you can see, Machu Picchu is one happening place – tours in many different languages all over. While there were a lot of people and potentially frustrating for getting a good shot without someone wandering through, once past the entrance area it wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have enough time to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak across) on this trip.

With fear that my scalp was going to burn for the 3rd tim on this trip I bought a Machu Picchu/Peru hat. And without planning, it matched my shirt for the day! For the “hiking” portion of our trip we opted to bring along our camelbacks, which was an excellent idea for always having clean water.

This place really is spectacular.

We ventured along one of the ancient Inca trails to this bridge. Not sure if you can see this perfectly, but beyond the bridge (which is probably no more than 18-24 inches across), the trail climbs up, up, up to stairs that continue up the mountain. These trails cling to the mountain side and are typically only wide enough for one person or a llama – talk about scary for those ancient Incas.

We continued our tour back into the Room of Three Windows. And to tour some surrounding structures. Portions of Machu Picchu are in continuous rebuild or repair to give visitors a better idea of what it might have looked like when inhabited 500 years ago.

As a little side note on the Incas and their Peruvian descendants – they have crazy good eyesight – they could make out distant rock formations with impressive detail, and they are fantastic, sure footed long distance runners (altitude is not a problem). Really the only reason they don’t win more Olympic races is that their legs, and therefore their strides, are shorter (comes with living in the mountains I guess rather than the savanna).

Once back down the hill, we stopped for lunch at Toto’s and some shopping in Aguas Caliente.

Walking by this stream that cuts through the center of town, it really did seem like some sort of fairy tale retreat. Like a place I could get lost in for a while, just cut myself off… other than the 4G cell service I got all around town. Foot bridges criss crossed high above while there is the ever present sound of rushing water. Rivers, mountains, all ever green – I could be happy here.

That afternoon we boarded our train back toward Cusco, 2 hours by train and then another 1 hour and 45 minutes by bus since that train was no longer running all the way to Cusco. We finally arrive tired and starving once again to our Eco Inn in Cusco for the last night before heading back to Lima.

Read more about Cusco here.


Peru: Cusco

After about a three week hiatus, I’ve been struggling to decide where to begin. There’s so much to tell, especially in relation to food and also just the jaw dropping beauty of nature bursting at its seams.

Maybe to begin I’ll say – at the end of April we spent 10 days in Peru, some was heart burstingly grand and others was gut wrenching, umm, well just physically that.

Although we started our adventure with a day in Lima I think the best for this recap is to start in Cusco and then work back to the food in Lima. (All foodies will want to stay tuned.)

After some flight delays, we arrived in Cusco to hit the ground running which actually made no time for lunch (needless to say, C was not thrilled since we left our apartment at 7am and really didn’t get a meal until 9pm that day). This is the main reason I don’t exactly have any stellar food reviews for Cusco is that we hardly had a chance to eat during that whole 4 day tour. We opted for a tour in Cusco and Machu Picchu since we were a group of 6 and no one really wanted the hassle of arranging all of the travel (at least I certainly didn’t).

We began with a tour of the Basilica Cathedral and some ancient sites around Cusco (Qorikancha, Saqsayhuaman, Tambomachay). The basilica was neat, but after seeing some of the most grand cathedrals and basilicas in the world on previous travel,  I was a little too hangry and also out of it from the coca tea at this point to fully appreciate it. Photos were not allowed inside.

It was interesting to see some of the Incan remnants in Cusco and how the Spanish tried to build over them… The Spanish were not the greatest at making structures that would last in an area with so much seismic activity. Basically the Incan structures still stand with no natural damage while the colonial structures are continually in need of repair.

We drove up to the top of the hill surrounding Cusco to see Qorikancha and Saqsayhuaman. I couldn’t resist trying a little yoga, but the spot I picked was really, really rocky and uneven – not ideally for trying to balance with shoes on.

Most of our small group for Cusco below. For this trip we tagged along with C’s sister, her fiance and his family.

We awoke early-ish again the next day to start heading to the Sacred Valley and places along the way.

We went to a weaving factory (actually two, one the night before as well, but I didn’t get pictures I was so exhausted) where they showed us how they use naturally dyes to color the wool. I thought it was pretty neat and bought some woven items.

Neat we traversed a but of dirt roads to find our way to Moray where we learned about the microclimates the Incas set up for farming – to get an idea for scale, each tier is about 5-6 ft tall. This is one of three.

We went to the Maras Salt Mine, although calling it a mine is a little misleading, they’re more like salt pools. They fill all of the pools with salt water from a spring and then allow the water to evaporate leaving the salt behind which can then be collected. Pools are owned by different families in the village and they typically farm during the waiting time and throughout the year for additional income.

We went to Ollantaytambo to climb another Incan temple and observe some of their grain storage across and town below. The religious site itself was never completed as it was interrupted by the Spanish and was abandoned as the Incas fled.

That night we stayed in the Sacred Valley at Sonesta Posadas del Inca Sacred Valley Yucay which was a beautiful spa like retreat. It reminded me a lot of our stay in Ojo Caliente. You could stay there for a week without ever having to leave – bar, coffee shop, breakfast and dinner restaurant, spa services, and even art and babble vendors. I wish we could have stayed longer.

While at Sonesta Posadas here are a few food pics I managed to snap – cheese plate and Pisco Sour at Happy Hour and then Manicotti for dinner.

After our night in the Sacred Valley, we were ready to awake the next day to head to Machu Picchu.

More to come!!