Best of 2005: From Iceland With Love

Wines from Australia, cheeses from Spain--plenty of countries promote their products. But it's hard to remember a campaign more worthwhile than this fall's from Iceland, a country with a long tradition of sustainable agriculture.

Icelandic lamb, allowed to graze in high-mountain pastures with an all-natural diet, has been available for several years at Whole Foods (locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia; wholefoods.com). It's tender and mild-tasting–perhaps the best lamb available to US consumers. This year it's joined by cheeses and butter.

More than 100 cheeses are made in Iceland, from Brie, Camembert, and bleu to unusual varieties such as Höfdingi, which is soft-textured, mild, and rich. The butter is in the European style, with a higher butterfat content and more flavor than most American brands. Perhaps the star of this year's introductions is skyr, a fresh cheese that looks and tastes like yogurt. Made from skim cow's milk, it's nonfat and high in nutrients.

The season for Icelandic lamb–a true spring lamb–is over when supplies run out at Whole Foods, the exclusive distributor. This year, that should be about the first week in December. Butter, skyr, and other cheeses are available there year-round.

Washingtonian staffers contributing to this section were Cristina Abello, Susan Baer, Susan Davidson, Ken DeCell, Rebecca Dreilinger, Kim Isaac Eisler, Mary Clare Fleury, Kimberly Forrest, Brooke Lea Foster, Garrett M. Graff, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, Aparna Nancherla, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Chris Wilson. Also contributing were Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Matthew Graham.

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