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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.

  • With the arrival of Spring, I have started to cast about for new ideas. For some reason, out of the blue, I wondered how Primavera is interpreted by Mexican cooking. In general, we grow a lot of what we need for Mexican cuisines here in Maryland, and as far as Chef Jerry Pellegrino is concerned, the ideas came hard and heavy.
  • Al looks at the wines from one of California’s most reliable bargain wine producers, Joel Gott.
  • I love watching a lot of the TV cooking shows, because not only are they educational, but they can also be very entertaining. One show in particular tickled me. The task at hand was to make home-made pretzels… and nobody could remember how to create the pretzel shape. As it happens, Chef Jerry Pellegrino is very conversant with pretzels and can offer us a few tips.
  • Languedoc-Roussillon is not as well-known as it should be. Hugh takes a look at their fabulous white wines.
  • Spring has officially arrived and that triggers all sorts of events In the Maryland marketplace. This is of course the season of lamb and many of us are dusting off our cookbooks, looking for recipes. One of Chef Jerry Pellegrino’s favorite dishes is braised lamb shanks, which he used to cook to perfection at Corks.
  • Languedoc-Roussillon isn’t well known, and that should change once you hear about their marvelous reds.
  • My mother was quite adept at whipping up great family dinners in no time at all. One of her favorite dishes was that old stand-by, meatloaf. I’m not sure what her recipe was but I do know it involved a lot of bacon and catsup. Luckily for us, Chef Jerry Pellegrino knows quite a bit about meatloaf and is eager to share his ideas.
  • With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, it might be a good time to bone up on some of the better dark beers in the market.
  • As winter grinds to a close we all look forward to St. Patrick’s Day, the annual celebration of all things Irish as well as the impending arrival of spring. Our Irish friends are nothing if not traditional, and their big day has a number of foods associated with it. Chef Jerry Pellegrino can give us some leads on eating Irish.
  • Oregon’s signature grape, Pinot Noir, has scaled the heights of quality. Hugh takes a look at some recent releases.