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.

jessica mullen/flickr

April is, among other things, National Noodle Month, which gives us a chance to think outside the noodle box for a moment.  Whereas most pasta and noodles are made with the simplest ingredients, there are no rules saying you can't get a little more inventive.  Thanks to a nifty piece of hardware, we can easily turn vegetables like carrots and squash into something very closely resembling noodles.

The tool in question is a spiral vegetable slicer.  You pop a roughly cylindical vegetable into the mouth of the tool, twist and turn according to instructions, and a pile of tidy noodle shaped vegetables emerges.  The slices can be thin spaghetti style or broader fettuccine or anything in between. 

Some of these gadgets look like tiny kitchen lathes, and others are something like a tube with a cutting blade inside.  Regardless, they are inexpensive, ranging from as little as $10 up to about $40.

With your vegetable noodle maker in hand what can you do with it?  Well Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has an armful of ideas.

Click here for recipes. 

Anyone can pop the cork on a Napa cab or a white burgundy.  But there are a lot of pleasures to be had if you allow yourself to stray off the beaten path.  Al has a few suggestions to help you get pleasantly lost.

Click on the picture for the full wine list. 

Salsas

Apr 4, 2017

One of the things we do really well in Maryland is peppers.  Our soil and climate are perfect for the entire range of peppers, from the mildest to the hottest.

One of Jerry Pellegrino's favorite thing to do with peppers is to whip up some of the classic Mexican salsas.  Here are a few of his favorite.  Some of these ingredients can be found in the Latino bodegas that a scattered around town.

Click here for salsa recipes from Chefs Amy von Lange & Jerry Pellegrino.

Desiree Litchford/flickr

I happen to be as patriotic as the next guy, but even I am forced to admit there are certain things the French do better than just about anybody else.  Perfume, champagne and truffles come to mind... and so do French pastries. Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School agrees.   He has had a number of French guests come into his school lately, and he has learned a thing or two.  Here are three recipes that will challenge you, but give you impressive results. 

Click here for unique French pastry recipes from Chefs Amy von Lange & Jerry Pellegrino.

As spring draws near it's time to break out the pinot noirs, the perfect red wine for a transitional season.  Hugh reviews new releases from one of his favorite California wineries.

Click here for the full list. 

With St. Patrick's Day looming we thought it would be a good idea to help you think past corned beef and cabbage and take a fresh look at modern Irish cooking.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School says, it seems to be high time to re-calibrate our thinking.

So with that in mind, here are a few classic Irish recipes done up for modern tastes and techniques.

Click here for recipes. 

Spanish Preview

Mar 15, 2017
David McSpadden/flickr

Al will be going to Spain later this spring, and he is boning up on some of the lesser known regions. For this week's program he is looking at Alicante, Jumilla, Bierzo, and Calatayud.

Click here for the complete wine list.

Daniela Pasta and Pastries Facebook

If you can't just hop on a plane and fly to somewhere exotic, like, say, Sardinia, you can do the next best thing. And that would be to book a table at Daniela Restaurant in Hampden where you will be treated to the next best thing.

Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School and I invited Chef Daniela Useli to tell us about how she brings a little piece of Sardinia to Hampden.

To read more, click here

Yalumba

Mar 8, 2017
yalumba.com

Yalumba is one of Australia's best known wineries.  Long known for their famous Yalumba Pipe Port, their portfolio also includes a strong lineup of tables wines.

Click here for the complete wine list.

Spinach

Mar 7, 2017
Kristin/flickr

It's a comfort to think that spring is creeping up on us and in a few weeks the markets will be open with the first produce of the year, some of it grown in hoop houses.  And one of the first things we can expect is spinach, and that makes us smile.

The first spinach, which often has been exposed to cold crisp air, is often the sweetest.  Besides its marvelous flavor, spinach is, as Popeye averred, really healthy for you.  It's a great nutrient delivery vehicle, and the only caveat we can offer is not to over-cook it.

To read more click here.

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