Browsing around the tourist information center in Olomouc last weekend, I came across a t-shirt with a face wearing a gas mask printed on it. Beneath the picture it said žeru tvargle. After a brief explanation from two youthful Moravians behind the counter, I finally understood the joke. Žeru is a vulgar way of saying “I eat” and tvargle is slang referring to the local cheese, tvarůžky. As for the gas mask, well, if you’ve ever eaten Olomoucké tvarůžky, you know exactly how stinky it is.
These days, that’s not the only famous cheese to come out of this region of the Czech Republic; surprisingly, Litovel, Moravia is home to one of the largest hard-cheese producing factories in the world. And now for the double-whammy: they make Gran Moravia, an Italian-style grana cheese (more commonly referred to as Parmesan), that actually tastes pretty darn good.
Though you can find vacuum-packed wedges of Gran Moravia in supermarkets around the city, I suggest stopping by their direct sales shop La Formaggeria Gran Moravia in Wenceslas Square or in Letňany OC—it’s cheaper and, of course, fresher. In Billa, for example, their flagship product costs 478 CZK/kg as opposed to 289 CZK/kg in their shop. (That said, it’s still the most economic option, even compared to Billa’s generic brand of grana padano which rings up at 559.60 CZK/kg.)
With Czech ingredients and Italian know-how, the Italian company Orrero and Brazzale Group set up their cheese factory in Litovel, Moravia because of its high-quality milk, skilled workers, and expansive agricultural territory. Their dairy diplomacy dates back to 1996 and today they produce over 6,000 tons of Gran Moravia cheese that is sold locally and abroad. In 2011 they received an eco-sustainable certification for their Gran Moravia line of products which, incidentally, has a water footprint and is suitable for vegetarians since they use soya rennet to separate the curd and whey.
If you need an extra incentive to visit their locale in Wenceslas Square, a shop assistant stands outside carving up a huge 30kg wheel of cheese and hands out generous samples to passersby. Five hundred liters of milk, collected from 75 farms across Moravia, go into the making of each wheel. Although produced in the Czech Republic, the cheese is then transported to Italy where it ripens for 12-14 months.
Many are lured inside by their tangy, crumbly sample but walk out with much, much more—I know I did. They sell anything from cheese soaked in red wine (formaggio umbriago) to Gorgonzola or Asiago and will readily let you try anything. If you go around 5pm you’ll see a long queue of Czechs buying fresh butter (139 CZK/kg) on their way home from work. They also sell a fresh whey drink (syrovátkový nápoj) in apricot, cranberry or vanilla flavors, but watch the expiration date–I got a liter at a 50% discount but it expired that same day. The only other challenge I faced was getting everything home before it melted.
Don’t be put off by it’s fancy appearance and location in Wenceslas Square, La Formaggeria Gran Moravia isn’t another hoity-toity cheese shop—god knows we don’t need another one of those in Prague—and the cans of Litovel beer adorning the shelves serve as proof.
I know Gran Moravia is one Czech cheese that will become a permanent fixture in my fridge (with the added bonus that it won’t stink me out of house and home).
1L whey drink (23 CZK)
290g Gran Moravia cheese (83.81 CZK)
234g fresh butter (32.53 CZK)
106g formaggio umbriago (51.83 CZK)
272g formaggio verena (73.17 CZK)
180g jar of Gran Moravia yogurt (23.9 CZK)
WHERE:Václavské náměstí 56, Prague 1
PUBLIC TRANSPORT:Metro Muzeum
OPENING HOURS:Mon-Fri 09:00–19:30, Sat-Sun 10:00–19:30
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