Kevin and I spent one full day of our recent camping trip to Cypress Hills putzing around Walmart supercenter, eating out and touring Medicine Hat.
What’s that? Campers don’t go out for lunch? Well, they do when their name is Leanne and all she wants for lunch is a panini.
A little searching on my handy dandy iPhone (seriously, how did we function without these 10 years ago?) brought up a gluten-free, lactose-free cafe in Medicine Hat that, believe it or not, served paninis.
It was meant to be.
Zucchini blossom market and cafe is a Mediterranean influenced eatery dedicated to serving delicious food made by hand with fresh ingredients. Located in the historic neighbourhood of Riverside, they are easily accessible from the Trans Canada Highway and across the river from downtown Medicine Hat.
Their location was great for us because we had the dogs with us and wanted to find an area to park that was shaded so the car wouldn’t get too hot while we enjoyed a quick bite to eat.
The first thing that jumped out at me upon entering was the salad and drink selection.
Because of the small space, everything jumps out at you the minute you walk in the door. There are menus, plates of gorgeous food, staff, tables, everything all right there. I was like a kid in a candy store – distracted and challenging to make sense of.
There were many jars of teas,
large veggies on the ceiling,
and a bunch of black boars with options galore.
There was a lot happening on the menu and 0 in the way of explaining what allergen-free options were available. I chose to consult one of the ladies behind the counter to help narrow down my selection. She was very helpful, comfortable with the menu and open to suggesting items that would best suite my dietary restrictions.
A bit of back and forth and I decided on a big bowl of bean salad and a gaucho panini on gluten-free bread, with roasted pork loin, mayo and chimichurri.
Kevin went for the ham & cheese panini… with no cheese. We were a bit disappointed that they didn’t have a lactose-free cheese for Kevin given that their website said that they catered to lactose-free diets, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt that our lunch would turn out just as good without the cheese.
While our lunch was being prepared, I took the liberty to walk around a bit and take pictures of tasty looking things.
My absolute favorite detail to our visit were the little letters on the cookie jars. How cute is that? I used to make necklaces and bracelets out of those beads when I was a kid. Oh, memories :)
Our food came out lickity split. 5-8 minutes perhaps.
The bean salad was so large, I only got through half of it. The gluten-free bread was filled with flax seeds, sunflower seeds and was thin, panini style. I had hoped that the chimichurri would be the ingredient that made this dish, but I was a bit disappointed in the pesto-like sauce. It didn’t have much taste at all.
Kevin’s panini was thin, crisp and wonderful. No cheese and all!
This is the face of a happy camper… ready for an afternoon nap.
- Ambiance: very original, personal and spunky. Loved the larger-than-life veggies on the ceiling 5/5
- Authenticity: a place like this in a small town? I didn’t even know it was possible. 5/5
- Ease of ordering and menu readability: the menu was difficult to decipher for a newcomer. There was a blackboard on the wall, then several throughout the space. It was challenging to know which one to look at and because it was all hand written, some items were difficult to read 1/5
- Food: sauces and oils weren’t overdone, portions were just right! Flavor was a bit lacking. I was expecting more from the chimichurri. For a place that states that they offer lactose-free options, I was disappointed that they didn’t have a lactose-free cheese option for their paninis 2/5
- Plating: cafe style – simple but nothing over the top spectacular. The plates had character! 2/5
- Service: the staff were helpful and knowledgeable. Patient in working with understanding my allergies and making suggestions so that I’d enjoy my dairy-free, peanut-free and gluten-free lunch 5/5
- Value: $6.95 for Kevin’s panini and $7.95 for mine because of the gluten-free bread. I would have hoped that a salad add on would be $1-2 dollars more, but basic salad or soup add on bumped up the dish by another $6 4/5
Total: 24/35 = 69%
When we got back to the car, we decided to take the dogs out for a walk in the area to help them blow off a bit of steam before we stuffed them back in the car for the 1.5 hour drive back to the campsite.
There were stairs on the far side of the park… just the thing you need when you want to wear out a dog!
We climbed all the way to the top for a gorgeous view of the city… then decided to head back to the car for some much needed water. No better way to settle our full tummies than with a beautiful summer walk!