If you are a cheese lover who has ever visited the Czech Republic you will probably already have heard of Olomoucke syrecky - famous semi-soft cheese cakes produced in the east of the country for centuries. Some would describe them as a culinary delight, others, as an acquired taste. Either way, they are a Czech pub staple and some say you haven't really lived till you've tried some.
One company that has perhaps done more than any other to popularise the cheese is AW, a firm with roots going back 130 years. Producing the Olomoucke tvaruzky brand, it is run by Karel Hlavacek, a descendant of the original founder Alois Wessels. Mr Hlavacek told Radio Prague it was an easy decision for him and his family to take up the business following the fall of communism in 1989. It was at that time that the state-owned firm was returned to the original owners.
"All of us in the family had childhood memories of when we used to visit our grandmother who used to make her own 'tvaruzky' and we saw how it was done. When we got the company back in 1991 of course we had no experience in the field, but we all brought something different regarding management."
Over the years, AW went from being a small producer to a major business. Extensive reconstruction was undertaken to meet EU standards and today the company produces 2,400 tonnes of the yellow-coloured cheese per year. The firm is now waiting on a decision by the European Union, expecting to receive special designation as a regional speciality. And Karel Hlavacek says he has reasons to be optimistic:
"Our request is now in the final stages of completion in Brussels and we are optimistic that it will be met. As far as sales go, they are continuing to go up slowly but steadily. People are beginning to appreciate the fact that the cheese isn't fattening. Also, there are more and more recipes now available: you don't have to eat the cheese only with bread but there are many dishes you can try. The taste and aroma of the cheese is of course unique. Those are all reasons I think we can be optimistic for the future of the company."
So, the next time you're in the Czech Republic, consider this great Czech speciality. Remember: tvaruzky can even be fried, which you may find out for yourself. If someone else orders them near you, believe me you'll know soon enough!