Vegan Finds in Europe - my culinary odyssey!
Vegan and Gluten-free? Check. And traveling for five weeks throughout Europe? Well, last I checked...
In the past, the mere thought of navigating what I assumed to be the most precarious of culinary terrains had stymied any call to transatlantic adventure. Yet I finally mustered the courage to venture to Europe come 2019 for three weeks, and - much to my surprise - stumbled upon a wide array of exciting and delectable options. Then 2020 came - and never quite "went" - and I felt the need to break free from pandemic weary isolation and re-commune with the world. So I went all out, as any extroverted wild-child would do, and decided to yoga, hike, cycle, boat, donkey, photograph, journal, and tulip my way through various bucket-list destinations, while leaving the rest up to the powers that be. And what was to transpire? Well...that's another epic post for another day, yet for now, I want to pay homage to the awesome plant-based sustenance that saw me through this journey. I'm excited to share some of these hidden gems with you.
PART ONE - ATHENS
Happy Blender - home to the most exotic, polychromatic, and incredible smoothies and acai bowls. The latter consist of unsweetened, authentic Brazilian acai. The real deal. (Be sure to check out their website, as my photo barely does justice to their vibrant offerings, yet was delicious nonetheless!) Additionally, they have a wonderful plant-based menu with baked falafels, red-beet hummus grain bowls, exotic wraps, and all! The owners are the sweetest people on the planet. Likening it to "Cheers," I frequented this establishment nearly every day I was in Athens, and even took a few of my yogi retreat friends to come try it. I had quite a few Acai bowls throughout Europe, and this was by far THE BEST!
2. Winners Vegan - My very discerning vegan friend from NYC highly recommended this place, and it definitely was a winner! I ended up going here three times: initially by myself, then with a friend from Athens (who has since taken several others there!), and then with a LA-based friend from my yoga retreat. The dishes are very flavorful and unique. I loved the LA Salad and the Indonesian Bowl. I also tried the Fruity Quinoa Bowl.
3. nice n easy - A funky restaurant with an eclectic Mediterranean menu - replete with vegan and gluten-free options. They use seasonal ingredients and name many of their dishes after cinematic icons....Clark Gable, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando. The irony is that many of the vegan dishes didn't make the "final cut" - and are primarily named in layman's terms. Powerful in its own right though, I enjoyed the "Power Bowl" and the Konjac Mushroom Pasta. Konjac can be a bit hard to digest, yet is super versatile, Celiac friendly, and filling. Recommend taking a few digestive enzymes! The big plus: they actually succeeded at making it taste like real pasta!
4. Avocado - After a long day of hiking the Parthenon and meandering through the streets of Plaka, it was a nice happenstance to stumble upon this darling little, all vegan gem. It was pretty crowded, yet I was able to secure a table without much of a wait. I started my meal with The Herb Garden Salad, which included a smorgasbord of herbs and greens, including rocket, coriander, baby spinach, parsley, dill, tarragon, and fresh basil, along with some delectable sun-dried figs and Granny Smith slices. I was ambivalent about what to order for my main entree - they had so many dishes that had "specific parts" in them that I just wanted to mix and match (LOL!) - yet I ended up settling on the Macrobiotic Plate - with some fermented and lightly sautéed vegetables, marinated tempeh, seaweed, butternut squash, and brown rice. I thoroughly enjoyed Avocado - albeit - sans the avocados themselves!
5. GB Rooftop Garden Restaurant and Bar - For a real splurge, I recommend eating at this locally-sourced, fine dining establishment at the very top of the five-star Hotel Grande Bretagne. The views are absolutely breathtaking (Acropolis - anyone?) and the menu can accommodate any palate - from pescatarian to carnivore to vegan and pretty much everything in between. The Feneos lentil bio salad with spinach, Greek lotus root, and carrot-parsnip puree was delicious, as was the chef's veggie platter. Yet it was the ambiance — a juxtaposition of ancient ruins and mystifying modernity — that epitomized this experience!
6. When in doubt, and in "Athens," I dare you to wing it! You can pretty much bank on the fact that almost any Mediterranean establishment in Athens can cater to a plant-based eater! You'll find the ubiquitous Greek salad (sans the cheese), fava beans (yellow split peas), and a wide array of vegetables pretty much anywhere you might venture. Everything was fresh, in-season, and immensely flavorful. It wasn't hard to have a great vegan meal in Athens!
Granted, I didn't have time to visit all the vegan friendly hotspots. A few other places that came highly recommended include:
Be sure to check them out!
So, there you have it! Part One of my European Vegan Culinary Odyssey...
Stay tuned for some more fantastic finds and veggie-centric oases on the islands of Santorini and Mykonos, and then throughout Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and London! I assure you that the best is yet to come...