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.

July 19, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Rachel Armistead and Summer Sauerkraut

A few weeks ago, when I was in Paris, I checked out Brasserie Lipp, the celebrated Alsatian bistro in Saint Germaine de Pres.  And of course, front and center was their famous choucroute garni... which is French for fancy sauerkraut.  As it happens, we know a lady  from here in Maryland who is a sauerkraut maven:  Rachel Armistead, from a tiny place called The Sweet Farm in Frederick has started a cottage industry making the tangy stuff.

Barbecue Reds

Jul 13, 2016

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   **** = elite

(All these wines are distributed by Lanterna)

Brack Mountain Wine Company, "The Boatman" Red Blend '14 ** $ VALUE

(A stunning big red, brawny, spicy tremendous value)

Brack Mountain "A La Carte Red Wine" '14 **1/2  $ VALUE

(Zin based, blueberry pie aroma, serve with the biggest roasts)

Feudi di Guagnano Salice Salentino '14 **1/2  $  VALUE

(Almost like a drier, smaller Amarone, deep and rich, a steal)

Tenuta Novare Valpolicella Ripasso '12  **1/2  $$

(One of Al's faves, a super medium bodied summer red with class)

Quinta do Mondego, Red Blend Mondego, Dão ** $  VALUE

(A deep but restrained Portuguese red that will be great with the grill)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine and Spirits  

I don't know about you, but my grill is fired up and going like blazes.  Cooking on the grill can be as easy as you want it, or it can be an opportunity for creativity.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, who is a past master at grilling and a tremendously creative chef is planning to have a lot of fun this summer.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   **** = elite

Siduri Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley '13 *** $$

(Silky, full of flavor, rich and deep, lots of personality)

Siduri  Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands '13  *** $$

(Lush, soft, solid pinot noir with great complexity)

Siduri Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley '14 **1/2  $$

(A touch leaner, more delicate, lovely nose, fine grained flavors)

Wild Ridge Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast '12  **1/2 $$$

(Very forward red fruit flavors, with biscuity yeast, good structure)

Champ de Reves Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley '12  *** $$

(Tons of flavor and complexity, silky texture, touches of oak)

Carneros Hills Winery "Chardenet", Durrell Vyd. '12 **1/2 $$$

(The epitome of California chardonnay, serve with lobster) 

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine and Spirits.    

July 5, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Andrea Shreiner:  sushi and local ingredients

What started off as a quirky fad some thirty or so years ago has become a mainstay of how we eat here in Maryland.  Sushi, that captivating cuisine of rice, raw fish and fresh ingredients is here to stay.  We were happy to welcome back the Godmother of Baltimore sushi, her good friend Andrea Shreiner and her buddy, the Godfather of Sushi, Sushi Ed Heinz.


Jun 29, 2016

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   **** = elite

Ch. Ste. Michelle Merlot "Indian Wells", Columbia Valley '12  *1/2 $

(Lean, flavorful, good ordinary everyday merlot)

Praxis Merlot, Alexander Valley '10  ** $

(Big bodied merlot, with bottle age, perfect with steak)

L'école No. 41 Merlot, Columbia Valley  **1/2  $$

(A very nice, elegant classy merlot that is quite Bordeaux-like)

William Hill Estate Merlot, Central Coast '13 **1/2 $ VALUE

(Best of the bunch, big, opulent, juicy, deep, satisfying)

June 28, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - At Work in the Moroccan Kitchen

As the weather begins to heat up here in Baltimore, it might make sense to see how cooks in some other hot climates handle their chores.  One of my favorite cuisines is Moroccan cooking, and Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, is very interested in this tasty approach to dealing with hot weather.

 Dom, des Herrbauges, VDP Loire  '14 and '15  **1/2 $

(Little known Grolleau Gris goes into this gorgeous, beguiling wine)

Dom. des Herbauges Unoaked Chardonnay  VDP Loire Valley '14 ** $

(Bracing acidity, tart focused fruit, great balance, good as aperatif)

Prieure de la Fine Muscadet, Reserve, Vielles Vignes, Muscadet '15 ** $

(Quintessential French café wine, bone dry, crisp, complex fruit)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine and Spirits.

June 21, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Mulberries with Gwen Kokes

We are in prime time for berries here in Maryland. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, are all here or in the pipeline.  But there is one other berry that does well in Maryland that I have absolutely no cooking experience with, and that is the mulberry.  So we invited Gwen Kokes to school us on this big juicy berry.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60

Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   **** = elite

Lago Adega do Salvador Vihno Verde "Portal da Calçada" '14  *1/2  $

(A bit bigger and bolder than most Vihno Verde)

Mirabeau Rosé Classique , Provence '15 ** $

(A big firm rosé, dry but filled with flavor, good for dinner)     

Domaine de Prince Costieres de Nimes Blanc '15 **1/2 $ VALUE