WALLINGFORD — The butter slightly sizzled as Chris McMahon, co-owner/partner of Caseus Provisions, lathered up a spot on the grill before slapping two slices of bread down. With his left hand he scooped up the six-cheese blend and showered it across the bread.
A small container on the counter housed pulled pork, which he added to the grill right next to the cooking grilled cheese, covering it with a tin lid. After giving the pork a quick chop and a flip he covered it for another minute or so and then doused it in barbecue sauce. With another chop and a flip, he piled the pork on top of one of the slices of melty, gooey, cheesy bread before adding the top slice to complete the sandwich.
“The Hog is our Carolina style barbecue pulled pork,” said McMahon. “We braise the pork low and slow for about 12 hours; the Carolina style sauce is heavy on mustard, apple cider vinegar, and a little bit of brown sugar and honey in there, as well, so you have the sweet and the tangy.”
With the first bite I was serenaded with the richness of the butter and sourdough bread, the cheese blend and the rich and tangy flavors of the barbecue pulled pork. The pork was tender, but not overly tender, melting in my mouth and easy to chew. I am not a big onion fan so I opted out of the caramelized onions, but the mouth-watering Hog was still easily a 10 out of 10 for me.
Caseus Provisions is a slight play on what Caseus used to be.
“Cheese-centric,” McMahon said. “Get all of your cheeses, fine meats, honey, nuts, anything you need to build a charcuterie board, small format cheeses, exotic drinks, exotic chocolates, different types of jams, pastas, things like that. We really wanted to be a specialty store unlike anything Wallingford has seen in the past.”
One of the most popular cheeses is the Gouda Cheese Diamond.
“This is the gold right here, it's a four-year, aged Dutch Gouda,” said Joe Meagher, director of operations. “It's pretty smooth, aged for three years and compressed kind of like you compress coal, you get diamonds right? Well when they compress you get cheese diamonds or tyrosine crystals. Tyrosine crystals are just flavor bombs.”
Meagher added that it is a snacking cheese with a sweet crunchy earthy taste.
“Fun fact – the only reason they’re able to get that crystallization is because those cows are 100% summer and grass fed cows; if they were winter or corn fed cows you wouldn't get that crystallization because that doesn’t have the same protein as the grass. So there’s a lot that goes into the science of making cheese,” Meagher said. “They’re all fantastic but that cheese is something special. This is our number one.”
Pradera Romano Gouda and Pecorino Tartufo (Tartufo means Truffle in Italian) are also popular cheeses.
“Pecorino Tartufo is a sheet smoked cheese so if you’re kind of lactose intolerant that will work for you,” McMahon said. “My partner Jason is the owner of Mystic Cheese Company. They have a cheese called Melinda May that is my favorite cheese we carry.”
The restaurant also features the crispy, melty grilled cheese bar.
“That gourmet grilled cheese is on a griddled Pain Au Levain (sourdough), which is made locally for us here in New Haven by Whole German Breads. It’s delivered four times a week and we think it’s a fantastic product,” McMahon said. “We use a Vermont butter and our proprietary six-cheese blend that we shred in house by ourselves. We don't want any sort of pre-shredded stuff because it comes with starches and things like that and it never melts like it needs to.”
Everything at Caseus Provisions starts as a classic grilled cheese and goes from there. The gourmet grilled cheese menu consists of The Classic — a classic mix of Provolone, Swiss, Gruyere, Gouda, sharp cheddar & Muenster with cornichon pickles & grainy mustard (on the side). The Garden adds pesto and fresh Tomato; The Cubano adds pulled pork, smoked ham, crisp pickles and whole grain mustard.
“One of the more popular items is our French onion grilled cheese, which is a throwback to the original Caseus French Onion Soup but in a grilled cheese,” said Jason Sobocinski,co-owner/partner.
“The Pazano we’re very proud of and people love,” said McMahon. “That fennel and lemon glazed chicken takes us a long time to make. If you cook chicken too quickly it gets nasty so we slow braise it. We have a specific process for our caramelized onions we deglaze with sherry and thyme. And then you add a cherry pepper which gives you a pickle aspect and then also you have a heat component to it as well so a little bit of spice to it as well.”
The sandwiches are made fresh and take about six or seven minutes.
“It’s kind of like an experience where you check out your grilled cheese from start to finish and I want people to be able to check out the store and what we offer as well,” said McMahon.
Caseus Provisions wanted to pay homage to the former longtime tenant of the building, Brunetti’s Luncheonette, so the owners kept the original Brunetti’s grill and sign.
“They say they don’t make stuff like they used to; this thing is fantastic,” said McMahon. “It does a great job.”
There is also a Build Your Own option where you can add any or all of these toppings to your sandwich: applewood bacon, barbecue pulled pork, Virginia ham, lemon chicken, tomato, pesto, caramelized onions, guacamole and cherry peppers.
“There are specs to every sandwich from the amount of butter to the amount of cheese to the amount of chicken that goes on,” McMahon said.
They also offer their Famous Cheese Truck Tomato Soup. And you can make any of the sandwiches a combo with the tomato soup for an additional $2.Accessible menu
“The menu has been in the works on and off since Caseus was in play,” McMahon said. “Grilled cheese was always a very large part of their menu. It was a half-pound grilled cheese though, it was a monster sandwich. I couldn't do that here so we had to scale it back for quick consumption and edibility for the general American public.”
With their 20 plus years in the restaurant business Chris, Jason, Tom and Joe put their heads together to come up with what they thought was a “sustainable delicious menu and something that kind of appealed to the masses,” McMahon said.
Jason and Thomas Sobocinski opened Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro in New Haven around 2008. In 2018 they made the decision to close the doors at Caseus and eventually take things on the road with the Caseus Cheese Truck, which would become known as the Crispy Melty food truck. Chris McMahon joined the company in 2020 to help grow the business.
“I think their presentation and their orientation to having marketed through a food truck gives a special edge to something that may be unique and people have an interest in trying it, so I salute them for their creativity,” Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said.
Caseus Provisions opened at 619 Center St. on April 1.
“I’m very pleased that people are interested in being in Wallingford,” said Dickinson. “There was quite a line to try the sandwiches at the ribbon cutting so I hope people continue to give them a try and I'll definitely have to try it sometime myself.”
McMahon says they’re happy to be in Wallingford.
“The town has really opened their arms and welcomed us. The people are fantastic, everybody that I have met has been amazing and I think their reaction and liking of the grilled cheese has been everything that we could ask for and more,” McMahon said.
The Caseus/Crispy Melty businesses have won a number of awards, write ups in the New York Times and were featured on the Travel Channel show “Man v. Food.”
“We had a challenge once upon a time where if you ate 10 grilled cheeses with at least one topping on it within an hour (and kept it down), we would name a sandwich after you,” said McMahon.
Caseus Provisions is open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Mondays & Tuesdays, and open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Caseus Provisions can be found online at https://crispymelty.com/.