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.

Cameron Kennedy/flickr

With winter lingering we still need to have something warm, cozy and red to snuggle up with.  Hugh has a selection of red wines that fit the bill.

Click here for the complete wine list.

Shad Run

Feb 28, 2017
Maryland Fisheries Service/DNR

Years and years ago, each and every spring, a Baltimore landmark restaurant called Danny's would hang a mysterious sign outside their front door. "The Run is On" said the sign, and every spring I would be left puzzling what that was all about. And I call myself a Baltimorean. Well, I don't have to tell you it meant that the shad were running and shad roe was on the menu.  It was a rite of spring.

The story continues here

Maryland Winter Wine Event

Feb 22, 2017
Jon Connell/flickr

Al visited the annual Maryland Winter Wine Gala and had a chance to taste the very best wines from the Free State.  He was impressed by the quality and provided this list of highlights.

Smabs Sputzer/flickr

I was making the rounds at my local farmers market last week, looking for something off the beaten path in the meat department. I stopped by Woolsey Farm's stand, famous for their excellent lamb, and it hit me. I could get a pound or two of ground lamb and see what I could do with it.  

Lamb and beef are mostly interchangeable, but there are differences. Lamb's flavor is quite distinct from beef, so a lamb cheeseburger might not exactly hit the same spot. But ground lamb is nothing if not versatile, and it does open up doors to more exotic culinary traditions. 

Next week is our annual celebration of love and affection and along with a bouquet of flowers, a box of candy seems quite appropriate.

Ordinarily we would dash off to Glauber's or Wockenfuss, but truth to tell, there is an alternative. According to Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, homemade candy is a distinct possibility.    

Here are some simple recipes that will result in amazingly tempting candies. You don't need to achieve high artistic perfection with these recipes. It's the thought that counts.

Enjoy these recipes by Chefs Amy von Lange and Jerry Pellegrino. 

Cameron Kennedy/flickr

Hugh and Al share their picks for some great wines to quench your thirst this winter.

rayb777/flickr

During these cold winter months there are any number of clever, forward thinking people who are enjoying homemade sauces using the tomatoes they canned last summer. And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School preaches, if these folks have any sense, they'll be looking up some of the classic sauces of Italy.

We're casting a wide net and bringing in a few other sauces that are not necessarily tomato based, just to be a little more comprehensive.

Antonio Cinotti/flickr

This week Hugh and Al give a nod to some wines from northern Italy.

When Al was a kid there were few things his parents fixed to eat that impressed him. He said his dad's Thanksgiving turkey was a knock-out, and his mom's homemade fudge got his attention. But when his dad suddenly, out of nowhere, whipped up a couple dozen donuts from scratch, he was impressed. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, shows us that you don't have to go out to Dunkin Donuts to satisfy that particular craving.

Winter Beers

Jan 11, 2017

Recommendations 

Bellhaven "Wee 90" Scottish Ale ***

(Dark, rich, lively, complex, very malty, excellent)

McEwan's Scottish Ale **1/2

(Warm and comfortable, a cozy brew for chilly weather)

Harviestoun "Old Engine Oil" Black Ale **

(Dark, thick and tasty, but not terribly heavy)

Heavy Seas "21" Anniversary ale, Imperial Rye ESB (pint bottle)

(Unique, robust, rye influence, high in ABV but supple)

Fuller's ESB   **1/2

(All about sweet malt flavors in a full bodied format)

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