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.

Malbec - 3/9/16

Mar 9, 2016

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

Salentin Reserve Malbec, Mendoza '13 * $
(Simple and uninspiring.  Not much to say.)

Amancaya Gran Reserva, Mendoza '12 *1/2 $
(Catena-Rothschild project with some complexity.  OK)

Alta Vista Estate Malbec, Mendoza '13 ** $
(High altitude vineyards give it good character.)

Don Manuel Villafañe  Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza '12  ** $
(Lush texture, mild, tons of flavor...see what can be done.)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.
Visit them at www.redswinenspirits.com.

One of my favorite cuisines in the world is Indian cooking.  And here in Maryland we are twice fortunate:  not only does our region produce a full market basket of appropriate ingredients, but there are a lot of ethnic Indian folks around who know a thing or two about curry. 

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

Cambria has long been one of our favorite brands for good value in pinot noir and chardonnay.  They are re-shuffling the brand, moving the "Bench Break" line of wines into the entry level position, and elevating the "Julia" and  "Katherine" labels to the top tier.  In between will be a series of "Clone" bottlings of pinot noir and chardonnay.  They are also bottling a good syrah and an extremely good viognier.

Cambria "Bench Break" Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley '14  **1/2  $$
(A nice toasty citrus chard, good for Saturday night dinner.)

Cambria "Bench Break" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley '13 ** $$
(Soft, rounded, subtly earthy, nice classy pinot noir.)    

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.
Visit them at www.redswinenspirits.com.

I have a confession to make, and I'm probably not alone.  It took me well into my life as an adult to learn to like certain vegetables.  I'm talking Brussels sprouts, beets, parsnips and turnips.  I'm sorry, but a lot of us have food aversions we need to get over.  Which is why Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School and I asked our good friend Liz Nuttle of EN Olivier on the show to help us get over the hump.

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

Ferreira 10 Year Tawny Port  *** $$
(Everything you could ask for in a middle-aged tawny)

Ferreira Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011 **** $$ SUPER VALUE
(This LBV has it all!  Why spend 3 times more for vintage port?)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats. Visit them at www.redswinenspirits.com.

February 23, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Make Your Own Cheese

Over the course of time I've seen a lot of things in the kitchen.  But few things are as remarkable as the process that transforms plain ordinary milk into cheese.  It's nothing less than alchemy, and Chef Jerry Pelligrino of Schola Cooking School, is working on techniques for doing it yourself at home.    

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

Ferreira Ruby Port *** $  VALUE
(Arguably the best entry-level ruby port out there.)

Ferreira Tawny Port *** $ VALUE
(Superb value in classic tawny port.)

Ferreira "Brown Label" Branco Port **1/2  $
(Almost a rosé port, very intriguing.)
    
Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.
Visit them at www.redswinenspirits.com.

 February 16, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Beef Wellington  

When I was doing a history tour in Spain last year, we speculated about the origin of that famous dish Beef Wellington.  It seems the  Duke of Wellington became so famous for beating Napoleon that it was inevitable that someone would name a dish after him.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School points out, Beef Wellington is an old-school classic that isn't out of place on a frigid winter evening.  He used to have great success making individual Beef Wellington's for his restaurant.

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

Big Cork Malbec '13  **1/2 $$
(Flavorful, dense malbec with great character)

Thanksgiving Farm Reserve Meritage '12  ** $$
(Elegant, sculpted blend with great flavor)

Port of Leonardtown "5th Anniversary Red" NV blend ** $
(A fun blend of random reds, comes together in a tasty wine)

Sugarloaf Mountain Winery Cabernet Franc '12 **1/2 $$
(A serious and successful cab franc from one of Maryland's best)

Boordy VineyardsMerlot '13  ** $$
(Lots of varietal character from our oldest winery)

Black Ankle Vineyards "Phylite" Red Blend '13 **1/2 $$$
(Unique one-off wine from the prestigious vineyard)

Many of these fine wines can be purchased at Reds Wine, Spirits, Deli & Meats.
Visit them at www.redswinenspirits.com.

February 9, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Homemade Pizza
    

One of the frustrations of winter storms is this:  you shovel, shovel, shovel, all day long, and you've more than earned a pizza.  But how are you going to get it?  The roads are miserable and everything's closed. What's a hungry guy supposed to do?  Well Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has been working on Do-It-Yourself pizza.  Courtesy of Jerry and his Schola partner Amy von Lange, here is
a primer for making a first rate pizza at home.

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