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.

Leeks

Jun 27, 2018
F Delventhal/flickr

The first weeks of spring are prime time for the onion family.  Green onions, spring onions, ramps and garlic are all coming in right now.  And so is an oft-overlooked member of the onion family, the leek.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino  of Schola Cooking School will confirm, this is actually a very good ingredient to work with.

Merlot Revisited

Jun 27, 2018
Cameron Kennedy/flickr

Merlot's rep as a second class wine is totally undeserved. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Jan Mark Holzer/flickr

It's all about keeping an open mind when you look for value. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

jeffreyw/flickr

I don't know, but I've seen it in the movies: Italians will eat pasta all year long. Whether it's in the bleak mid-winter or al fresco on a sunny summer afternoon, pasta is always there.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School will tell you, there seems to be quite a few pasta ideas that are appropriate for these warmer months.

Here's a few.

NZ not SB

Jun 13, 2018
Ralf Smallkaa/flickr

Al and Hugh offer some wine picks that show that New Zealand can do more than just sauvignon blancs. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Panna Cotta

Jun 13, 2018
Bex Walton/flickr

I was watching one of those cooking shows the other day, and a contestant decided to whip up a batch of panna cotta, the wonderfully light and fruity Italian dessert. I asked Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, since it's such an easy dish, why don't more people try it? And I think it's because the key ingredient is gelatin, something modern home cooks don't work with very often. Here's an easy recipe.

A pair of California labels over-deliver on classic wines. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Alessio Algeri/flickr

Since a good chef never travels far from their roots, it is natural that our own Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School should have an affinity for Sicilian cuisine.  In Sicily, geography is the key.  This island is surrounded by the Mediterranean, home to thousands of species of fish and shell fish.  And they all find their way into the Sicilian kitchen.

Here are a few of Jerry's favorite recipes from the old country.

suited392/instagram

One of the pleasures of dining in Baltimore is the number of different cuisines we can sample.  At Cypriana of Roland Park the culinary traditions of Cyprus are on display, and that little island turns out some fabulous food.

Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School and Al invited Chef Maria Kaimakis to be with to talk about her restaurant.

Wine in Cans

May 29, 2018

They're putting wine in cans, and it's going to change where you drink...and it's a lot better than you might think. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Suzette - www.suzette.nu

Levening is what we do make dough rise and become much less dense.  This actually involves somehow incorporating air into the mixture.  Yeast, baking soda, baking powder and egg whites are the four most common mechanisms for levening dough.  The secret is to cause a chemical reaction in the dough that will result in the creation of carbon dioxide.

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, reacts with the acid in a dough to produce the gas.  Typically, buttermilk, vinegar, or lemon juice provide the acid.

Baking powder, however, carries its own acid with it, thus avoiding unwanted flavors.

Here are several baking recipes Jerry has used at Schola Cooking School.

South Africa

May 23, 2018
david mcspadden/flickr

Significant improvements for an old and troubled wine region. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Portuguese Sampler

May 16, 2018
François Philipp/flickr

Super values from one of Europe's hottest travel destinations.  Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

www.healthaliciousness.com

When the whole Eat Local movement got started in the Bay Area of San Francisco, foraging in the wild for healthy edible food became a signature activity.  Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley would dispatch dozens of volunteers to head out into the wilds and bring back baskets of amazing ingredients.  And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino points out, those of us living in "the other Bay Area" can do the same.

Ralf Smallkaa/flickr

You don't have to shell out $80 or more to enjoy a good Piedmont wine. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Omer Iqbal/flickr

With spring comes a collection of familiar foods that  help us enjoy the new season.  Few vegetables are more welcome than the first peas of the year.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino reminds us that peas are one of those ingredients that can stand alone very nicely or perform any number of supporting roles.

Albarino

May 3, 2018
amaianos/flickr

Spain's great seafood wine is achieving a great audience around the world. Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Mike Licht/flickr

This is one of the nicest times of the year to visit your market.  Strolling up and down the aisles your eye will be caught by the crown jewels of the season:  our fresh Maryland strawberries. My first instincts are for strawberries and ice cream with shortcake, but Chef Jerry Pellegrino tells me, we don't have to go for sweet dessert dishes all the time.  Strawberries can go savory too.

yevgeniy_shpika/flickr

Lower in alcohol, supple in body, packed with flavor and very food-friendly, light reds are perfect for this time of the year.

Click the links to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Ryan Snyder/flickr

Spring is finally starting to feel like spring, and we are starting to sport the first new harvests of the year.  This gives us a whole new set of options as we work out ways to celebrate this tender season. I told Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, that I wanted to see if I could find any recipes for those two stalwarts of the season: spring lamb and spring onions.

Riesling

Apr 18, 2018
antidigital_da/flickr

Although the best Riesling may grow in Germany, other regions are having great success with the ultra-classy varietal. Click the links below to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Lauren Knowlton/flickr

There's an old saying that if they give you a lemon, make lemonade.  It seems to me you can say the same about the invasive Blue Catfish, a scourge of the Chesapeake Bay. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino will tell you, if there is one thing we've learned about this fish, it's that it is very tasty to eat.  So in this case revenge can be served piping hot.

To stir up interest in luring the Blue Catfish to our dinner plates, the folks at Maryland's Best Seafood are holding a contest to find the best recipe.  But before you start experimenting, here's a little basic knowledge.

Jenny Ondioline/flickr

It's a perfect wine for the season and Al and Hugh have their recommendations for some delicious Pinot Noirs for under $25.00.  Click the links below to purchase Al and Hugh's recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Ravioli

Apr 11, 2018
blue moon in her eyes/flickr

As our region's markets slowly wake up this spring, we begin to encounter all sorts of tempting food. With items like fresh baby spinach sharing space with the last of winter's butternut squash our minds start conjuring up recipe ideas. One of the best ways to make use of fresh Maryland produce is to become adept at making ravioli. Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School points out, it's no exaggeration to say the possibilities are endless.

Here's some tips about making ravioli.

Chablis

Apr 4, 2018
Lee Coursey/flickr

Al and Hugh give their picks for some notable chablis. 

Gemma Billings/flickr

At long last the moment is at hand, the culinary equivalent of baseball's Opening Day.  This coming weekend will mark the return of the Baltimore Farmers Market under the old JFX.  And for Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School, this means that his cooking classes will have a lot of great local food to work with.

Flickr/Jeannette E. Spaghetti

Maryland's farms are just about ready to start cranking out good fresh food this spring, and very quickly we're going to be washed away in a food avalanche. Since we can't possibly eat everything we'd like to buy, we have to have a plan B. There's no better expert than Chef JP of Schola Cooking School, and he says it's never to early to start thinking about preserving the bounty.

Dave McSpadden/flickr

Al and Hugh discuss an assortment of interesting wines that you'll want to pick up this season. 

Jessica Spengler/flickr

Spring is the season of eggs, themselves symbols of renewal.  It's also a great time for casual Sunday morning brunches. Al suggested and Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School agreed, there are certainly more than a few million egg recipes that would do well for an informal little brunch.  And for best results, you'll want to use fresh Maryland eggs.

Maryland's Best

Mar 14, 2018
Ralf Smallkaa/flickr

Al and Hugh give a rundown of some of the best Maryland wines.

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