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.

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.   


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.

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

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

Helfrich Gewurtztraminer, Alsace '13  ** $

(At $15, this is a real VALUE, classic T'giving wine)

Chat. de la Chaize Brouilly (Beaujolais) Vielle Vignes '12  **1/2  $$

(A cru Beaujolais, mature and ready to enjoy)

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages '15 ** $

(A classic producer smooth and easy drinking Beaujolais)

Baked Apples

Nov 22, 2016

November 22, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Baked Apples

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days off, we thought we'd give you some ideas for last minute desserts.  You might want to serve something that is right at hand, easy to prepare and sure to please.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School suggests, one dish that fills all those criteria is baked apples.

Cotes du Rhone

Nov 16, 2016

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

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

Alan Jaune Cotes du Rhone Villages "Les Travées" '13 **1/2 $

(From Cairanne, this is a silky refined CDRV with spicy fruit, great flavor)

Dom. Paul Autard Cotes du Rhone '14 ** $

(Polished, elegant, with berry and field herb flavors)

Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Villages '13 ** $

(Great price for a refined CDRV, lovely café wine. VALUE)

Dom. del la Jannasse Réserve Cotes du Rhone '13  **1/2 $

(A touch rustic, a little wild and rugged, great VALUE)

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

November 15, 2016 - Radio Kitchen - Taco Tool Kit

A lot of us spent a portion of summer's closing weeks putting up and preserving that great Maryland produce.  Now it's time to use it. A good tangy salsa is a great destination for, say preserved tomatoes, peppers and garlic, and what better way to enjoy a salsa than with a taco.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, give us some tips on fixing homemade tacos.

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

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

Giuseppe Lonardi Valpolicella Classico Superioire Ripasso '15 **1/2 $$

(Terrific, bright, tart, dried fruit flavors)

La Quercia Montepulciano d'Abruzzo ** $

(Well-rounded Italian red, with direct fruit flavors)

Edi Simcic Duet (red blend) Slovenia '13 *** $$   

(Fabulous Bordeaux blend from an unusual source)

Edi Simcic Chardonnay Riserva, Slovenia '13 ** $$

(A fleshy, fully mature chardonnay from Slovenia)

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