Al Spoler | WYPR

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.

Freddy Olsson/flickr

You gotta have bubbles this time of year! Al shares some of his favorites. 

Karla Turner/flickr

You've got a week to get ready, so let's cracking on a first class New Year's Eve party menu. This is when you want to get in touch with your "Inner Pellegrino" and let it all hang out. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has put together some ideas for folks to try.

Shopping Lists

Dec 20, 2017
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Al and Hugh review their favorite wines from this year, which would be great for gifts. 

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We've been talking a lot about holiday traditions this month, and one of the most ancient is a little treat called Plum Pudding. Making a proper Plum Pudding involves a few techniques that most Americans aren't familiar with. But we've got you covered. 

Stonestreet Winery/Facebook

Al and Hugh discuss the wines of Jess Stonestreet Jackson, which the hosts say is one of the most important figures in the California wine industry in the last 30-40 years.

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Kids all over love this time of year, with the presents, the holidays, the cookies, it's all dreamland.  One of the perennial props for this time of year is a project that you can take on with your kids.  In Chef Jerry Pellegrino's opinion, nothing says winter holidays like a Gingerbread House.

Kosher Wines

Dec 6, 2017
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Kosher wine has come a long way in quality and variety. Hugh and Al discuss this list of kosher wines from Quarry Wine and Spirits, and they learn what makes a wine kosher. 

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The next few weeks will be a season of traditional celebration with lots of big hearty dinners.  So let's say you're going to be serving a big old roast beef; what is one of the best accompaniments?  Anyone from Great Britain will answer enthusiastically, Yorkshire Pudding! But as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has observed, this is one of those dishes that draws a puzzled shrug from most Americans.

Chianti Regions

Nov 29, 2017
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The name Chianti comes from the Chianti region in central Tuscany. Al and Hugh give some picks from the many subregions. 

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If you have a foodie, a gourmet chef, or a good old fashioned home cook on your shopping list, gift ideas are not hard to come up with. And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School can attest, the Internet has made shopping for the kitchen very easy and very inspiring. Here's a few things we'd like to see under the tree.

@thelocaloyster/instagram

Thursday is Thanksgiving, my favorite feast of the year. And although many of you will be turning to turkey as the featured dish, I would like to remind you of the many ways the Chesapeake Bay oyster can play an important role at the table.   Chef Jerry Pellegrino invited  Nick Schauman of Baltimore's hot new eatery The Local Oyster to be with us an share a few ideas about oysters.

The Local Oyster is in the Mt. Vernon Marketplace at 520 Park Avenue in Baltimore. Here are some wonderful holiday recipes.

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Al and Hugh discuss their visit to Domaine Pfister in Alsace, a region in northeastern France. 

Sipp-Mack of Alsace

Nov 20, 2017
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Al and Hugh visited Alsace, a region in northeastern France recently and they'll focus this week's episode on Sipp-Mack, a producer in the area.

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Last week we talked about the 'King of the Chesapeake Bay,' the mighty rockfish. But lest we think it all begins and ends with the good ole' striped bass, let's remember there are quite a few other fish in the sea.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino, one of Baltimore's most creative chefs, has made it a point to work with these forgotten fish. Here are some of his ideas.

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In Al's mind there is no doubt about it: the king of the Chesapeake Bay is the rockfish. Considered by many to be one of the best fish in all the world, the rockfish, or striped bass, belongs in Maryland dining rooms for occasions big or small. With Thanksgiving coming up, Al and Jerry thought it would appropriate to suggest rockfish as an alternative to turkey.

Click on the image for the audio. 

Zinfandels

Nov 6, 2017
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Al and Hugh revisit some trustworthy Zinfadels. 

Back to Chile

Nov 2, 2017
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One of the first wines outside of Europe and the U.S. to make a splash were from Chile. So, Al and Hugh revisit the wines of this South American country. 

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The Maryland pantry supports so many culinary traditions. While Al was in Spain this past spring, he had more than one plate of their famous national dish, paella. And it so happens that one of our creative local chefs has adapted paella to work with Maryland seafood. Chef David Ludwig, from Anne Arundel Community College, teaches cooking in their Hospitality and Culinary Arts Department and shares his recipe for a Chesapeake Bay paella. 

Veneto Reds

Oct 25, 2017
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Al and Hugh give their picks for wines from the Northeastern Italian region. 

Dustin Aksland

Like any region with a distinguished seafood heritage, our Chesapeake Bay has attracted national, even international attention. Chefs around the country have taken notice of our traditions and have found inspiration on the shores of the bay.

Here in Baltimore, an accomplished New York City chef has come to town to open a pair of restaurants. Rye Street Tavern and Rec Pier Chop House are under his supervision.

In order to incorporate local flavor into his menus, Chef Carmellini spent time on the Easter Shore absorbing ideas for his kitchen. He came away impressed with how versatile the blue crab can be, and how superb the Chesapeake Bay rockfish is. He intends to rotate new ideas into his menus on a regular basis to present Maryland seafood at its best. Here is one of Chef Carmellini's best crab recipes.

Oktoberfest Beers

Oct 18, 2017
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Click  on the image for Al and Hugh's brew picks. 

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They do fast food a little differently in England;  I learned that my first trip over.  Scattered around every English town of any size are little food trucks selling fish and chips.  And even though we can't quite match the original, we can give fish and chips the old college try. And Chef JP, fish and chips are a tasty treat...and perfect for watching football.

Fish and chips certainly is not a hard dish to make, and given our great choices of firm white fish here in Maryland, we can easily whip up a convincing batch. Did someone say rockfish?

Grab Bag of Bottles

Oct 12, 2017
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This week, Hugh and Al talk about wines produced by folks who are known for something else.

Brittany Lindsey

Soup - a liquid dish, typically made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables, etc., in stock or water  

That cool snap in the air is so welcome after a particularly hot summer.  And it may be my imagination but I think that cool air carries the aroma of cooking food in a way that puts a smile on my face.  This is the time for soup making, ideally a day-long process that puts a keen edge on your appetite. Here are some of Jerry and Chef Amy von Lange's ideas for simple soups.

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Al and Hugh discuss some of the winning wines in the Maryland Governor's Cup Competition. Click on the image for the list. 

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We're in the middle of our harvest season, when farmers all over Maryland are bringing in the food they've worked so hard to produce.  In Italy this season is celebrated with the Feast of San Martino, who quite logically is the patron saint of grape pickers, winemakers and sommeliers. So to fill us in on this festival, we've invited a friend whose knowledge and understanding of this Feast is first rate, Chef Sergio Vitale of Aldo's Restaurant in  Little Italy. Chef Sergio gave us a few ideas for celebrating San Martino. Here they are.

Odds and Ends

Sep 27, 2017
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Click on the image for the list.

DIY Pizza

Sep 27, 2017
Brittany Lindsey

I wonder if anyone else out there has had the frustrating experience of bringing home pizza that just didn't hit the spot.  I hate to admit it, but buying pizza has become a hit or miss prospect. So Chef Jerry Pellegrino has a proposal for us: learn to make your own pizza according to your own specifications.

-Al Spoler

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Languedoc is in the southwestern region of France. Al and Hugh say the quality of wines from this area is increasing. Click on the image for the recommendations. 

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Most of us have been grilling for several months now, and although we've loved our burgers, steaks and ribs, we might be looking for something new, something a little exotic to toss on the grill.  So Chef Jerry Pellegrino and I look to Latin American and the Caribbean for a lot of inspiration, because the folks down there really know how to grill.

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