Arsenal Cheese is new on the culinary scene, but already its specialty -- cheese curds -- is popping up in Pittsburgh food establishments. Jonathan Gaugler and his dad, Scott, opened their handcrafted-cheese shop only six weeks ago in the basement of Gaugler's home. Now, their curds are on the menu at Kelly's, Brillobox and Harris Grill; and on sale at East End Food Co-Op and Right By Nature, or by order from Arsenal.
The curds are made with local Jersey cow milk. Gaugler explains that it has higher fat content and more milk solids. "It makes better cheese."
The bite-sized morsels taste considerably fresher than regular block cheese, due to the curds' higher moisture content. The curds are good fried, melted on bread, or eaten as is. (Travelers to Canada may recall that the bar staple poutine is fries topped with gravy and curds.) Arsenal offers just cheddar for now, but Gaugler plans to expand and is considering flavors like dill or pepper.
Gaugler admits that he and his wife, an educator at the Carnegie Museum, came to Pittsburgh a year ago "without much of a plan." A long-time beer brewer, Gaugler took an interest in making cheese. He studied the process at Penn State, and opened his business after seeing that "no one was really doing it."
Gaugler has named these curds "Cannonball," after the former arsenal's output. "I want people to know the cheese is made in Pittsburgh," he says, "but especially in Lawrenceville." 274 Fisk St., Lawrenceville. 412-266-1557 or www.arsenalcheese.com