Al Spoler

Host, Cellar Notes and Radio Kitchen

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.

His most rewarding immersion in cooking came through his work as a television director at MPT.  Spoler served as off-line editor and assistant director on two series featuring the legendary French chef Pierre Franey.  He also worked with Mexican chef Patricia Quintana, and with Bed and Breakfast expert Gail Greco on her series "Country Inn Cooking". Al says traveling all over the US visiting country inns and taping recipes that they prepared in little makeshift television kitchens was an incredible education.

Spoler's tastes in cooking are influenced by regional tradition and contemporary casual French fare. Never slavish to recipes, he is never happier than improvising a Sunday dinner with whatever ingredients come to hand.


Cellar Notes
10:26 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Bordeaux (Frank Agostini Selections, Lanterna Distributor) - 4/22/15

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60
Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   ****= elite

Chateau Coustaut, white Graves '13  **  $
(Mouthwatering flavors, with 40% semillon)

Chateau Haut Dambert, white Rentr-deux-mers '14  *1/2  $
(Inexpensive French sauvignon blanc, crisp, floral, touch of mint)

Chateau Lauduc, red Bordeaux Supérieur '12 **  $
(Great value for a fairly serious Bordeaux, round, lush merlot)

Read more
Radio Kitchen #1329
7:06 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Spring Onions

April 21, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Spring Onions

While prowling through the market last weekend, I noticed that there were a lot of wonderful vegetables available that play important supporting roles in our meals.  In fact, the whole family of spring onions offers enterprising cooks a lot to work with.

Read more
Cellar Notes
8:37 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Spring Whites - 4/15/15

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60
Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   ****= elite

Broadbent Vinho Verde Portugal NV  *1/2  $
(Totally charming, very light, sparkling, perfect for spring)

Husch Chenin Blanc, Mendocino '13  **  $
(A little off-dry, perfect for spicy Thai or Moroccan food)

Les Fosses d'Hareng Vouvray '12 **  $
(Perfect daffodil wine, slightly sweet, very fruity, with mineral notes)

Ruffino Orvietto Classico '13  **  $
(Light, round, supple and loaded with flavor, fresh as a daisy)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Wine World.

Read more
Radio Kitchen #1328
1:04 pm
Tue April 14, 2015

What To Plant This Year - 4/14/15

April 14, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - What to Plant This Year

April brings us the bad news of tax season, and the good news of the return of gardens and farm fields.  Our friends, the Maryland farmers, have spent the winter poring over their seed catalogs, planning on how to best please their customers this year.  And of course, it's not too late for amateurs like us to do the same, and that's exactly what Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Waterfront Kitchen has been doing.

Read more
Cellar Notes
5:30 am
Wed April 8, 2015

Maryland Vidal - 4/8/15

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60
Quality key:  * = decent   ** = very good   *** = superb   **** = elite

Knob Hall Vidal 2013 **
(Full flavored crisp white, think Chablis.)

Boordy Vidal, "Off-Dry" 2013 **
(Smells like viognier, drinks like a Vouvray.)

Crow Vineyards Vidal Blanc 2013 **1/2
(Intense, classy, drinks a lot like a Spanish Rueda.)

Read more
Radio Kitchen #1327
8:36 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

Spring Peas

April 7, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Spring Peas

Last week we talked about one of the Rites of Spring:  the enjoyment of Spring lamb.  Today we'd like to cover another harbinger of the season, and that would be Spring peas,  the very embodiment of this most tender of seasons.

Read more
Cellar Notes
8:49 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Odds and Ends - 4/1/15

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60
Quality key:  * = decent   ** = very good   *** = superb   ****= elite

Anew Riesling, Columbia Valley 2012  *1/2  $
(Terrific value in crisp, flavorful riesling.)

Acrobat Pinot Gris, Oregon, 2013 *1/2  $
(Good value in good honest Pinot Gris.)

Acrobat Pinot Noir, Oregon, 2013 *1/2  $
(Good value for light, fresh, soft Pinot Noir.)

Taken Wine Co. "Complicated" Chardonnay, Sonoma **  $
(A decidedly good value in full flavored classic Cal-Chard.)

Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa 2012  ***  $$$
(Pricey, but really worth it:  great classic Napa Cab.)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Wine World.

Radio Kitchen #1326
8:24 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Spring Lamb

March 31, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Spring Lamb

Around the world, the arrival of Spring is celebrated in many different ways, but there is a surprising constant in many cultures:  and that would be the enjoyment of Spring Lamb.    But the truth is, around here, these lambs really aren't born in the Spring, and in fact, a true Spring Lamb can be hard to find this early in the year.  

Read more
Cellar Notes
8:17 am
Wed March 25, 2015

New From Spain - 3/25/15

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60
Quality key:  * = decent   ** = very good   *** = superb   ****= elite

Breca "Old Vines" Garnachia,  Calatayud 2011  **1/2 $
(Great value for a wild and wonderful Spanish red.)

Scala Dei "Negre" Priorat 2012  **1/2  $$
(A very good entry level wine from an important wine region.)

Gregory Perez "Brezo", Mencia, El Bierzo 2012 **1/2  $
(A very dynamic, lively medium bodied red with personality.)

Buil & Giné "17.XI" Montsant 2011  **1/2   $$
(Great region for value, sweet dark and lush red with lots of garnachia.)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Wine World.  

Radio Kitchen #1325
8:40 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Working With Spinach

March 24, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Working With Spinach  

I think a lot of us are eagerly awaiting those first warm days of Spring, and the return of the Farmers Markets.  One of the first items to make an appearance every year is spinach.  And that's really good news to cooks all over the place.

Read more