Food Vegetarian Dining

Echoing European flavors an ocean away

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The afternoon we embarked on our honeymoon to Madrid, Paris and Frankfurt from Atlanta’s international airport, my husband and I grabbed a quick bite at Ecco in Hartsfield-Jackson’s international terminal.

I had been meaning to try Ecco’s full-scale restaurant located in midtown Atlanta for months, since it always pops up on Yelp, OpenTable and Zomato when I search for top-rated restaurants, but I never made the plunge to do so since its menu flaunted tapas and appetizers like charcuterie plates, seafood, and other meat-based dishes. Ecco is a restaurant inspired by seasonal European flavors, which made it a fitting way to start our honeymoon. As I later learned about Ecco and about European dining options during our trip, European menu options have evolved to accommodate a variety of diets. 

Airport location

With only a short wait time left before departure, we decided a pre-flight snack and cocktail were in order to kick-off our first international trip together. Ecco, recognized  as one of the “best bet” dining options at the airport by Eater Atlanta and top airport bars by Fox News Travel, would perfectly fit these needs.

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Never ones to turn down a cheese plate or cocktail, we went for a selection of three cheeses, which came with honey and preserves.

… And somehow that set the tone for the rest of the trip.

We found that this soon became the trend as we wandered through Madrid and Paris. After all, there’s no scarcity of cheese in Europe, though we did indulge in other local treats as well like pastries, savory and sweet crepes, and all kinds of tapas. I’m guessing we gained a good 10 pounds from that trip thanks to all of the cheese plates, pastries, and wine.

Veggie friendly

In all fairness though, I was quite impressed in Paris that the vegetarian options were starkly improved than when I visited with my parents 20 years ago. Two decades ago, we struggled to explain the term “vegetarian” to waiters. I remember one fancy restaurant in Nice where we were served a different type of meat at each course, even after we specifically said no chicken, beef, pork, or fish. We ended up eating a lot of salad that night.

This time, though, one of the waiters who served us galettes at A la cote Bretonne in the town of Versailles responded, “I understand. I’m a vegetarian, too! We have more ‘hipsters’ here now,” when I told him about my dietary restrictions.

And just as Ecco strives to imitate European cuisine and ambiance, so too has it reflected European understanding of new tastes and preferences — such as vegetarian and gluten-free options —while continuing to infuse its dishes with authentic European flavors and ingredients. 

An echo from across the ocean

Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at Ecco’s full-scale location in midtown Atlanta, a rather popular choice for locals and visitors alike. The good news is that they take reservations easily through OpenTable, so you can book in advance like I did. 

This time, I ventured beyond the cheeses for a healthier option. In fact, I was surprised I hadn’t seen sooner that Ecco has even been grouped among “Veggie Friendly” restaurants on Zomato. I ordered a plate of sides: the roasted cauliflower, the baby beets, and the shaved spring vegetables.  The cauliflower came with a delicious creamy and savory sauce which I actually mixed into bites of the other sides as well. My friend ordered the mandilli—a pasta made in-house—with balsamic-radicchio, arugula, gorgonzola, and candied walnuts. I couldn’t resist stealing a bite of hers, and it was superb! This pasta was full of rich flavor, but the portion size ideal so as to not feel too heavy. In fact, Ecco’s focus on Mediterranean and Italian dishes reminded me of how even we stuck with some pasta favorites during our trip, and how prevalent Italian restaurants were even in Madrid and Paris. 

I’ll definitely be heading back to Ecco to try more of its European-influenced fare, particularly some of the dishes that I missed on my honeymoon since I was too busy scarfing down cheese plates when I was actually there. We’re lucky to be able to experience such cuisine here in Atlanta from an ocean away.

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