Meat and cheese plate: the carb-counter's dream meal.
We tend to throw together meat and cheese plates on lazy Sunday nights when we would rather picnic on our coffee table than spend an hour or two cooking in the kitchen. These "lazy Sunday dinners" tend to turn into a feast for a king by the time I get finished plating everything I thought we would need for a successful nosh.
Our honeymoon was to Iceland, and I am going to be honest here: I had not heard good things about the food. With a national dish such as putrefied shark and things like puffin, raw whale meat and horse on the menus, I was kind of looking forward to the possibility of actually losing weight while traveling.
I decided I would be adventurous and try some things I might be uncomfortable with. The very first restaurant we went to was a recommendation from someone I stopped in the street. "Do you know of any great little restaurants or cafes to eat lunch around here?", I asked in English without hesitation to a young-ish pair of stylish-looking women (EVERYONE spoke English there). They directed us to a little place that was tucked slightly off the main drag.
We did not know what to make of the menu. First of all, diet coke was "pepsi max"; a quick trial and error session was all it took to figure out that one. We did not really understand what a lot of the things on the menu were, and the servers were not interested in walking us through it. Also, everything was insanely expensive! This was just a regular restaurant, cute but nothing special. The entrees could cost between $35-$50. We settled on splitting what we determined to be a "sampler-style appetizer plate" that was $35.
It turned out to be the most delicious version of a meat and cheese plate I had ever set tongue on. From then on, I knew my waistline and wallet were in trouble on this trip. At least when we asked the random woman in the street what is customary for tipping, she said in a heavy accent, "oh, we are Icelanders...we. don't. tip." I don't know if she was trying to say that we should tip since we were not Icelanders or if she was just so proud of the fact that they do not subject themselves to the custom of tipping, but who could even afford to tip on top of such pricey restaurant bills?
We went on to indulge in other great adventures while in Iceland some of which included other foods like whale sashimi (no wonder we did not see any whales when we went whale watching) and that putrefied shark I was telling you about.
Other adventures were of the outdoor variety like visiting Iceland's many scenic wonders:
And then there was the city-life. The biggest city was Reykjavik, where more than half of the 300,000 people in the country live. While Reykjavik was by far the biggest city we visited, it was still smaller than 200,000. I believe that is about the amount of people that fit into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium AKA "The Swamp" two times.
Sushi on a conveyor belt:
Some of you may see a meat and cheese plate as a cop out for a recipe, but I really wanted to share the idea since it is just the idea if you want to have dinner at home, but you are in no mood to cook. It has a "home-cooked" vibe without any mess or effort. There is something about plating up everything to create a nice spread that is relaxing and fun. Here are some tips to create a great spread based on my past trial and errors:
*choose 3 meats - one hearty style (i.e. something you might eat on a sandwich like a great roast beef or sliced ham), one sausage type (like a thick summer sausage or salami or chorizo - you could opt for two sausages if the first type of meat sounds boring to you), and one artisan style (like prosciutto or something you might just like to taste).
*Try to get your meats and cheeses from a grocery store with a great deli counter. That way, you can just buy what you need and still have plenty of variety. Or you could just spring for whole packages of everything so you will just have to make the spread again a couple of days later.
*choose three cheeses - one hearty (maybe a tasty cheddar or muenster. In honor of Iceland, we bought havarti cheese which was a staple at any breakfast meal we enjoyed while we were there), one special cheese that has been soaked or smoked or aged, read: hard (like a smoked gouda, manchego cheese is my favorite or one of those delicious cheeses that has been soaked in merlot) and something soft and strong like a goat cheese or blue cheese.
*Throw a baguette or whatever bread you like in the oven on a low setting until the crust is toasted and the inside is warm. Don't slice it. Just let people pull pieces off of it as they go; this way it will stay warm on the inside throughout the meal.
*Nuts are a great addition to the spread. I recommend cashews, spiced almonds, candied walnuts...
*Dried fruit or jam adds a great slightly slightly sweet touch and can be rolled up on a piece of bread with one of the soft cheeses
*some veggies with a dip - something light in case the meal gets to feeling too heavy
*I love grapes with cheese.
*Red wine is a must.
*Lastly, set up somewhere picnic-style, even if you are inside. Light some candles and enjoy!