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Dining in Iceland: Grilled lamb, smoked salmon ... and putrified shark?

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Dining in Iceland: When I travel, I try to gorge myself on local cuisine. During my most recent trip to Iceland to report on lessons from its journey from a global finance go-go capital to credit-crisis roadkill, I filled up on grilled Icelandic lamb and smoked salmon, but passed on the puffin. (To read more about the roadkill, click here.)

We have Atlantic puffins in my native Maine, but the birds are so rare that they’re regarded almost as an endangered species, the subject of painstaking restoration efforts and a considerable tourist industry.

But in Iceland, puffins are common – so much so that they’re actually on the menu. I couldn’t bring myself to eat them myself - they’re tiny, amusing little creatures, like penguins crossed with barn swallows - but I’m told they taste rich and gamey. I also passed on the hakarl – putrefied Greenlandic shark – which is said to be an acquired taste.

On a previous trip to Reykjavik, I did try another Icelandic dish, whale sashimi, at the insistence of a gregarious, bearded Icelandic whaler. “Best meat in the world!” he proclaimed as the lean, red, filet mignon-like slices arrived at the table. It was good, but not as nice as yellowfin tuna, which I’m happy to stick to in future.

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