If you happen to live or work in the Jiřího z Poděbrad neighbourhood you may have already heard that a new cheese store has opened this week. Even if this is not the case, the news would have probably reached you sooner rather than later. Word of mouth marketing works very reliably in the case of Cheesy.
The community-oriented network of cheese boutiques Cheesy, which has opened its seventh store in Prague only this Monday on Slavíkova street, is gaining considerable popularity. It was only two years ago that the chain’s owner, Jiří Malík, opened the very first store at Letná. Since then, many more Cheesy stores have opened, some of which are run as franchises.
That’s also the case of the new shop. Before opening it, Karel Borek liked to come to Cheesy because of his taste for good cheese and wine. He found out about the possibility of running a franchise under Cheesy thanks to a woodcarver and his long-time friend Bohumil Franc, now his business partner. Franc knew Pavel Ondráček, the supplier of wines to Cheesy stores, who brought them to Jiří Malík, a former DJ and vinyl record store owner in Prague.
Cheesy’s cheeses and more
The chain is known for its personal approach to customers, which is still rather unusual in the Czech Republic – the vendors are happy to offer you a taste of any cheese you wish because they know that it will pay off – in the end, you actually buy something and come back.
Borek, one of the owners of the Cheesy store on Slavíkova, confirms that his customers spread the information about the shop among themselves: “People who come to us say ‘I’ll drop by later or I’ll tell my friend about you’, and then they really do come.”
Cheesy’s portfolio comprises about 500-600 types of cheese, which are imported mainly from the Netherlands and stored in a warehouse near Beroun. From there, the cheeses are distributed to stores in Prague and in other towns. Cheesy, however, also sells Italian, French and Swiss cheese, as well as English cheddar and Romanian kashkaval (sheep milk cheese).
Besides the most common cow cheese Gouda, which is available in different stages of ripeness (the oldest one is 36 months old) and with various ingredients such as caraway seeds, cumin or nettles, you can also try their creamy sheep cheese Shappenkaas, or any of the goat cheeses, if you are a fan. Dutch goat cheese, by the way, does not “stink”, Jiří Malík told me. If you want to experiment, go for the soft sweet Duo Brie with cranberries, or Kavital with honey.
The prices for 100g of cheese range from about CZK 30 to CZK 60, with most cheeses available for CZK 33 to CZK 42. Cheeses are packed in special airtight foil, which enables the cheeses to be preserved for as long as three or four weeks, depending on the type of cheese. “The surface of the cheese may become crusty, but you can keep a Gouda in the fridge even a half a year,” says Ondráček, himself a cheese lover.
The temperature in the store is set to 17 or 18 degrees Celsius, so that the cheeses can ripen. “There has to be constant temperature in the store, we’ve already caught a cold because of that,” Karel Borek says smiling.
Besides various types of hard, semi-soft and soft cheeses, you can get Greek or Italian olives, stuffed peppers or sundried tomatoes in the store. As Karel Borek says: “Our store is relatively large, so the selection comprises all goods offered in Cheesy stores.”
This includes also various types of Trappist beer which is brewed in Belgium by Trappist monks, or wines such as Chateau bel Eveque from the production of the French actor Pierre Richard and Chateau de Tigne from the vineyards of Gerard Depardieu. Pavel Ondráček’s Euro Vine CZ is an exclusive supplier of these brands to Cheesy stores. Another specialty, popular especially among ladies, is the Italian red sparkling wine Fragolino, which has an intense aroma and the flavour of forest strawberries.
Karel Borek and Bohumil Franc, as well as their staff are currently undergoing training, learning about the various cheeses and wine, so that they are able to advise customers on suitable combinations. “We don’t want to press our customers to buy anything but to give them information,” Borek said.
The chain is expanding so quickly that the owner Jiří Malík himself is not able to say exactly how many stores Cheesy has. However, since October 2006, when the first shop opened in Letná, their number has risen sharply. “We have opened eight or nine stores in the past two months,” Malík said. Currently, Malík owns six stores, with some 12 more franchises spread over the Czech Republic and one in Bratislava. By the end of the year, two more franchises should open in Prague 6, as well as one in Břeclav, Moravia.
The Cheesy in Slavíkova is open from 9am till 7pm, but the store may stay open even longer, as the owners are still testing what time of day people like to come. From this weekend on, the shop will be open also on Saturdays and Sundays.
Little encyclopaedia of cheese
The most famous Dutch cheese named after the town, where it was originally produced. Nowadays, there are many types of Gouda cheese, which are not produced in the town of Gouda, but are made the same way.
This young Gouda has a soft creamy taste, which is richer when the cheese is dried while ripening.
Low-fat Goudas, low-salt Goudas or Goudas containing no salt are also produced. Often, herbs such as nettles, parsley, pesto or other ingredients like olives or walnuts are added.
Farmer cheese is Gouda made only from non-pasteurized milk. Since milk (and consequently also cheese) contains different amount of fat, every Farmer cheese is different.
Leidse or caraway seeds cheese
Caraway seeds are added in skimmed milk. It has slightly less fat than Gouda. The taste of caraway seeds gets richer as the cheese ripens.
Cheese made of skimmed milk and buttermilk, spiced with clove. It reaches full flavour only after half a year of ripening.
This cheese has a little less fat than Gouda. It is more dry and less sweet. Its round shape is characteristic of this cheese.
A relatively new cheese. A few drops of “prapion acid bacteria” are added in milk, which then cause characteristic holes in the cheese during ripening and cause the mild, sweet, nut flavour of the cheese. The cheese ripens in six to eight weeks.
Basic rules for serving cheese with wine:
Young soft cheeses go well with light dry white wine. Older more dry cheeses combine well with richer red wines. White wine is usually served before red wine. This means that young soft cheese is served before older cheese with a richer taste.