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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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)

Michelle Waltman/flickr

A couple weeks ago we resolved to eat more of the many alternative whole grains out there.  Turning away from standard starches like white potatoes and white rice, we are now more interested in some of the more obscure, but delicious grains.

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Hugh and Al on their new favorites from Sardinia and Sicily.

Veggie Stews

Jan 4, 2017
Rebecca Sims/flickr

In keeping with last week's show about New Year's Resolutions, I have personally resolved to eat more all-vegetable meals this coming year.  So I have surfed through the internet and found a treasure trove of recipes that would appeal to me personally.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School observes, winter is actually a great time to whip up some veggie stews and soups.

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It's time to break out the bubbly! Al and Hugh give their picks for what you should be sipping on as you ring in the new year.

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With New Year's Day fast upon us, it might be a good time to examine our eating habits and see if there is any room for improvement.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School points out, a lot of New Year's Resolutions are in fact food related... like dieting, for example.

The Gift of Wine

Dec 21, 2016
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Al and Hugh's picks for the best wines to give.

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Although some people may think that Beef Wellington is hopelessly passé in today's sleek, modern culinary environment, I seriously doubt they would turn up their snarky noses at a plate of this great holiday tradition.  And as fancy as Beef Wellington is, it isn't terribly difficult to make.

horrapics/flickr

Cellar Notes brings you a range of rioja wines.  

Back in the 40's when the old Howard Johnson's chain added pot pie to their standard menu, you know that it had become an American icon.  This classic example of comfort food is both simple and satisfying.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School can testify, as simple as pot may be, there are lots of little twists and turns you can explore as you make it.

jenny downing

Part II of Cellar Notes' rundown on the best Italian wines.   

Jean/flickr

Heirloom tomatoes opened the door for a new appreciation of bygone produce, and that led to a re-examination of long forgotten livestock breeds.  One of the most successful heritage breed hogs are raised right here in Maryland.  So we invited our pal Shane Hughes of Liberty Delight Farms in Reisterstown to talk to us about the Berkshire pig.

Price key:  $=less than $20  $$= $20-40   $$$=$40-60  $$$$=above $60 Quality key:  * = decent wine   ** = very good wine   *** = superb wine   ****= elite November 30   Italian Whites I  (Lanterna Distributors) Illuminati Costulpo Trebbiano d'Abruzzo '15  *1/2  $(Dry, subtle, mild and fresh)Illuminati Pecorino Colli Aprunti '14  **  $(Wonderful elegant, floral wine with peachy notes)Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi Vernacia de San Gimignano '15  *  $(Idiosyncratic, perhaps not everyone's cup of tea)Lunae Pigato Terreferme '15  **1/2  $(Fabulous wine, floral, gingery, bright and assertive) Many

November 29  #1508   International Dumplings

 I've read that there is one thing that all societies have in common when it comes to food:  if you have any kind of flour available in your kitchen, you make some sort of a dumpling.  And Chef JP of Schola Cooking School, has been pondering these tempting little bundles of goodness.

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