laugardagur, janúar 21, 2006

the cheese ladies

At the eastern end of Reykjavik, in a particularly unattractive section of white industrial buildings, car dealerships, candy companies, and the soft-drink bottler Egils, is the Reykjavík dairy. And at one end of this vast corrugated steel complex there is a bright neon sign advertising Ostabúðin and a little door in the side of a vast steel wall. Once through that door, an unlikely transformation takes place. Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of what is likely the best cheese shop in Iceland.

We went last night on the way back from the Árbær swimming pool. The shop is full of cheese-serving pottery, cheese serving tools, cheese serving vehicles, and cheese serving accompaniments. And of course, lots of cheese. There was the front waist-high fridge of cheese tilboð and the back fridge full of all kinds of packaged cheese. And then there was a glass counter the length of the store and behind it the selection was expertly tended by two classic cheese ladies. At least half of the enormous blocks and wheels under the glass were from Iceland. There was cheese from Selfoss, from Akureyri, from Húsavík. And intermingled were some classics from England, France, and Holland. As E and I made interested motions toward some English cheddar, one of the cheese ladies asked "Viltu smakka?" and when we said "Já" she sliced us each a little piece with her shiny cheese knife. And then she offered up another, milder English cheddar. She probably would have let us smakka all afternoon, but we decided on some Icelandic cheddar, some Icelandic getost (a brown caramel goat cheese), some French chevre (sense a goat theme here?) that was on tilboð, and a box of buttery British crackers. The cheese lady bade us farewell with a "Góða helgi! Bless!" But the caramel cheese and crackers didn't even last the weekend.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Cheese is good there for sure, but I disagree about the obscurity of the place. You missed the subliminal yet obvious messages. Next time you go there to stock up on British crackers and pan-european cheeses, notice the different sized round windows. The whole building housing the dairy/cheese factory is in fact a mimic of an enormous Swiss cheese (an Emmentaler to be precise). A true masterpiece of Icelandic architecture. Right up there with the giant concrete soda bottles on the Egils building next door and the slanting-walled orkuveitu palace up the road.

Z

22.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

I guess I could have figured this out if it was ever light here. ;-)

22.1.06  
Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Next time bring your alarm clock.

23.1.06  
Anonymous John said...

Well, I am definately going to have to check that out. Missed it on my last two trips...Just have to figure out what bus I'll need to take to get there...If plans go well, I will be arriving Early morning 3 Feb 06... WooHoo...counting the days. Let me know if you need anything small brought over!

23.1.06  
Blogger JB said...

You know, John, "let me know if you need anything small" are famous last words said by Americans to folks living in Iceland. I made the mistake of saying that to my Icelandic friends when I was still living in Boston, and ended up having to buy another suitcase for the pile of books, clothes, and tubes full of burnable CDs that I ended up pack-muling. Let me mull this one over... :-)

23.1.06  

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