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Ain’t no Yule without The Virgin

Christmas in Iceland is all about tradition, and for EPI and YT there quite simply is no freaking Christmas unless we get our Yule Platter at The Virgin.

In fact, this conviction has passed repeatedly through my panicked mind over the past two weeks, having been told that The Virgin was all booked up every day and every evening until Christmas and there was not a hope in hell that we’d be able to get a table unless something major happened, like a massive fricking storm that would drive everyone off the streets and into the malls. Which is exactly what happened last Friday. Whew.

The Virgin is the English translation of Jómfrúin, which is the name of a restaurant in downtwn Reykjavík and also a euphemism for ‘Danish woman who makes open-faced sandwiches’. Those open faced sandwiches are called smørrebrod and are traditionally Danish. In Denmark they have been elevated to a high art, so much that it takes years to be educated as a smørrebrod-maker, and those who actually graduate in the art of smørrebrod-making can officially call themselves jómfrú which in English translates into ‘virgin’ or, more specifically, ‘female virgin’.

Anyway, the owner of Jómfrúin is a man, and not just any man but actually the first member of the male gender to actually graduate as a jómfrú [geddit? He’s not actually a female, yet he’s a jómfrú]. And – predictably – the restaurant specializes in smørrebrod, a scrumptious selection of which they serve every day of the year [but only until 6 pm because true smørrebrod places are never open in the evenings]. During Advent, however, Jómfrúin completely departs from its regular programming and serves up a fantastic Yule Platter, featuring a selection of seven different tapas-sized dishes, plus a to-die-for dessert in the form of a rice and almond pudding served with cherry sauce [with real cherries] and whipped cream. YUM.

The Yule Platter consists of the following Danish delicacies [keep in mind that all this is of the highest quality, made from scratch by The Virgin himself, and absolutely delectable]: Pickled herring in a mustard sauce, crab tart with lobster tail, some sort of pickled chicken salad concoction, hot smoked duck breast, reindeer pâté, roast pork with rind and caramelized potatoes with brown sauce, and finally a slice of creamy gorgonzola with grapes, all served with pumpernickel bread and sliced baguette. Followed by the aforementioned dessert. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to start the evening off with a shot of Aalborg Aquavit, served in an iced glass.

EPI and I chanced upon this hidden Advent treasure about six years ago when we were doing some Christmas shopping downtown and ambled into The Virgin on the way home because we didn’t feel like cooking. We were immediately bowled over and made a vow there and then to do the Yule Platter thing every single year, come hell or high water [like last Friday]. Something which we have judiciously adhered to ever since, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. And clearly we’re not the only devotees because Yule Platter at The Virgin has become more popular year-on-year, witnessed by the fact that when I phoned to make a reservation at the beginning of December for, oh, around the 20th or so, we were told that there was not a hope in hell of getting a table for the remainder of the Advent, unless there happened to be a last-minute cancellation, which was highly unlikely. Unless there was a tempest, that is.

WE HAD A BRIEF RESPITE YESTERDAY AND THEN – ANOTHER STORM
It’s getting so that you can set your watch by it … one day a storm, another day calm, next day storm, next day calm, and so on. Weatherman sez it’s because there was a huge low-pressure area that was broken up somehow en route to us, resulting in this chequered kind of weather. Whatever, all I know is that I went out for a walk today and there was not a dry thread on my entire body within ten minutes of walking out the door. I came back looking like a drowned rat. Then, this evening, EPI and I went out for a long walk around the golf course in relatively calm and absolute pitch darkness. Scary. It was a new experience for Yours Truly, and I remarked to EPI on the way that there were probably not many places in the world where you could walk outside like that in a remote area with not a light around, and still feel safe as houses. We’re in for some calm until tomorrow night, when we have another storm coming. Tsk. Still, we’re not getting barraged with snow like the northern US. It’s mild, in fact: 6°C [43F] and sunrise was at 11.17, sunset at 15.29.

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  • Simon Brooke December 20, 2010, 12:30 am

    Yay! There’s life in the old blog yet! Here’s wishing you a happy and prosperous new year, and lang may yir lum reek!

  • Cassie December 20, 2010, 1:22 am

    Our lunch at “The Virgin” was one of my favorite meals in Iceland. Now I want a Yule Platter.