Caprese salad with a generous amount of balsamic reduction and fresh herbs/greens.

Caprese salad with a generous amount of balsamic reduction and fresh herbs/greens.

The Hammond’s Ferry community in North Augusta simply keeps on surprising me with delicious treasures. Acting almost as a sister/satellite establishment to Manuel’s Bread Cafe (owned by the same businessman and chef- Manuel Verney-Carron), The Larder at Hammond’s Ferry is seemingly small yet with an extraordinary amount to offer. They boast a variety of preserves, mustard, freshly baked bread, pastries, sandwiches and even gelato. Despite its small size, the bar also has a nice variety ranging from craft beers and reputable wines to house-recipe cocktails and coffees. The 4pm-7pm happy hour certainly will not disappoint either. Yet, the spotlight falls to the food. While no large dinners or 5 course meals can be found on the menu, this absence is more than compensated for by the number and variety of dishes available. Focusing on deli fare and family-style tapas sharing, there is bound to be something which fits everyone’s pallet.

During my visit, we sampled the gazpacho with cucumber sorbet, poached salmon, pork empanada, pickled shrimp, pork/veal meatballs with mushroom sherry sauce, and caprese salad. Every dish told a different story in flavor and left me wanting more, yet since this is in fact a cheese review site, the caprese gets all the attention. This is for good reason! I have not tasted a better insalata caprese since my visit to Italy in early 2014, where buffalo mozzarella is so delicious and plentiful that it’s hard to believe they do not grow it on trees.

The caprese salad is not a persisting item on the menu, but was one of their offered daily specials. Notable of the establishment is that the prices are quite affordable. The fine specimen that you see in the above photo set me back a whopping $6, and it was by no means packaged or store-bought. This is apparent because the fresh mozzarella used was sitting in the sandwich and salad display case! The only way it could have been any fresher is if I had seen them milking the cow/buffalo out back and making the cheese in front of me. Nicely creamy with just the faintest hint of salt, the sliced mozzarella made a superb pairing with the perfectly ripened tomatoes, fresh micro-greens, herbs, oil, and generous balsamic reduction. While the salad could have done without so much balsamic “generosity”, I have never had much of a sweet tooth and tend to prefer things simpler with less additives/sauces. To further expand on the pleasantness of this establishment, both our server, Theresa, and the bartender graciously tended to us with nothing but knowledgeable responses and suggestions. Oh yes, and there were a lot of smiles.

This place will certainly remain a staple on my list for quality foods and cheese. Do expect to see articles about them in the future, especially because they offer both a charcuterie and cheese plate with alternating meats and cheeses. I look forward to trying these out soon and hope to see you there. Cheers!

 

Fresh mozzarella waiting to go into the caprese salad.

Fresh mozzarella waiting to go into the caprese salad.

Our great waitress, Theresa. Very knowledgeable and helpful.

Our great waitress, Theresa. Very knowledgeable and helpful.