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.

Some of California's most intriguing wines don't carry the name of the grape on their label. Exotic and imaginative red blends can offer value and interest. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Baking Tips

Mar 19, 2019

Audio coming soon. 

The weather is just starting to warm up a bit, and our collective sap is starting to rise. If you feel like taking on a few little projects in the kitchen, it's a good time to start baking. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has some timely tips for our listeners.

March is Maryland Wine Month, a chance to celebrate the impressive progress our state has been making in its wine industry. Al features three favorites.  Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.


Mar 11, 2019

A few weeks ago our friendly neighborhood nutritionist Courtney Ferreira was on talking about healthy choices in eating. One thing she mentioned was cauliflower, which is apparently quite a little nutrition bomb.  And Al and Chef Jerry Pellegrino agree that cauliflower may have gotten something of a bum rap and being way too bland.

Neil Hinchley/flickr

Somebody once said that paprika was the most mediocre of all spices. What??!! Well Al supposes that if paprika to you is nothing more than the red stuff on a deviled egg, well then fine. But Chef Jerry Pellegrino, warms us not sell this fabulous spice short!

Paprika is nothing more than ground up red peppers, reduced to a powder. This started in the ancient Americas, was brought back to Spain in the 1500's and then eventually spread throughout the world.  Hungary, India and China all have paprika in their cuisines.

Today many would argue that the best paprika still comes from Spain, where it is called "pimeton".  But world-wide, there are several types.


Sonoma's Russian River Valley is home to some of the best chardonnays and pinot noirs in California.  Hartford Family Winery does it as well as anybody.  Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Cold nippy weather is the perfect season for warm hearty ales like stout and porter. Hugh makes a survey of some of his favorites. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

In deep mid-winter it does get hard to work locally grown food into our cooking.  Some smart folks have put up preserves or done some pickling, but most of us are having a little trouble eating local.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino points out that if you can get to one of the year-round farmers markets, there are definitely some things we can toss into our market basket.

The northern Spanish regions of Rioja and Priorat are the most prestigious of the country. But quality doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Here in the last few weeks of winter it's hard to imagine that we can support our local farmers, but with several farmers markets open year-round around the state, it's possible to do just that.  This is the season of the root vegetable, the heartiest and most die-hard of Maryland produce, the food that just keeps on giving.  And Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School will tell you, perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy winter root vegetables is in a root vegetable soup.

Clayhouse wines

Argentina made malbec famous. But its origins are in central France, where the deep and brooding grape first was turned into wine.  It also grows extensively in California. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Right this moment in the dead of winter, we need to remind ourselves  that warmer days lay ahead. Our poor old backyard grills are in sorrowful hibernation, just counting down the days until we fire them up for a barbecue. But why wait? Chef Jerry Pellegrino loves grilling and making barbecue.  But one thing that impresses him is that as you go around the country, barbecue means different things in different regions.


Feb 6, 2019

One of the most popular wines in all of Italy, Valpolicella comes in several distinct styles.  Hugh looks at a strong lineup from Cesari. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Timothy Vollmer/flickr

Audio coming soon. 

Ever since Al bought a pasta making machine, he loves trotting it out every now and then and whipping up a few yards of fresh pasta. Good enough. But when he compared his little strips of fettuccine with some of the complicated shapes he sees at the store, he got the feeling that he could be doing better. In this episode of Radio Kitchen, Chef Jerry Pellegrino, a great fan of home-made pasta, tells us how we all can have more fun with it.

Maryland Rye

Jan 30, 2019
MISCellaneous Distillery

Maryland rye is staging a dramatic comeback and the quality from around the state is very high.  Here are a few suggestions. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Cynthia Glover

Jan 28, 2019

Traveling has always had a big impact on the way Al Spoler eats. As he moves around the world in his travels, he encounters all sorts of new things to eat, many of which he attempts to replicate back home. Al and Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School invited Cynthia Glover, one of their favorite travelers, to be join them for this episode.

Maryland Rum

Jan 23, 2019
Lost Ark

From colonial times on, Maryland has crafted rum.  Today's versions are turning heads with their quality, many perfect for sipping. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

We've been on a eat healthy kick lately, and I hope we stay there. One popular item that will keep folks on track are boneless chicken breasts and thighs. But as Chef Jerry Pellegrino says, boneless chicken breasts and thighs are pretty boring. Nevertheless, he rounded up a bunch of recipes that feature this heart-healthy ingredient. Here they are.


Well known as a producer of good value wines, Cambria is introducing a new line of super premium wines dedicated to the family members who created them. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

Eating healthy always seems to be a little more difficult in the winter months. Most of the locally produced food items just aren't available, and the tendency is to eat heavier, more filling food. For Chef Jerry Pellegrino and me this is a conundrum, which is why we've asked nutritionist Courtney Ferreira to be with us today.


Bogle Wines II

Jan 9, 2019

We continue our look at Bogle, one of the most bargain oriented wineries we know.  All these wines are priced at $15 and under. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

J. Annie Wang/flickr

We're one week into the new year and already the resolutions are starting to pile up. Al's gym at the Y is jam-packed with new faces all intent on treating their bodies better this year. Chef Jerry Pellegrino and Jerry note, a lot of resolve goes into changing our eating habits, which is why we invited nutritionist Courtney Ferreira to join us for today's Radio Kitchen.

Bogle Wines

Jan 2, 2019

Bogle represent one of the stongest lineups of consumer friendly wines out there. We will spend two weeks looking at their selections, which cost $15 and under. Click the link to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.


To anyone who is up and listening to our show today, congratulations! You've gotten the new year off to a good start.  Something that has always fascinated me are new year's traditions. With the help of Chef Jerry Pellegrino, let's see how many we can think of during these first few hours of January the First.

From the American south come quite a few traditions for our first meals of the year. Black-eyed peas, collard greens, corn bread, and pork are guaranteed to get your year off on the right foot. The old, famous dish of Hoppin' John seems to have be created just for this purpose, and is a wonderful cold weather dish.

Everybody wants to have a few bottles of bubbly on hand for end of the year celebrations. Here’s a list of certified winners that you can print out, or order directly from this website. Click the links to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.



To our friends who are celebrating Christmas this morning, we wish you joy of the season. Of all of the traditions that surround holiday dinners, one of my favorites is the plum pudding. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino agrees that there is nothing as tasty as a well-made classic plum pudding, preferably one that uses a recipe from the time of Charles Dickens.

We can all use some advice for picking out just the right bottle of wine for your holiday occasions. Here’s a list you can print out, or you can order directly from this website. Click the links to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.

During the holidays I’m apt to forget about dessert discipline and indulge in the occasional cookies or pies.  This very natural inclination is far from rare and we’re going to do nothing to prevent you from enjoying the sweeter side of the holidays.  Chef Jerry Pellegrino loves this topic and has collected a lovely bunch of recipes for delicious savory and sweet pies and tarts that sound quite tempting.


Dec 12, 2018

There are quite a few ways to cook meat that require a fair amount of attention.  One that doesn’t is braising.  Once the pan goes into the oven, you can forget about it for a few hours and watch some football. Chef Jerry Pellegrino loves braising and says there is no better way to help inexpensive cuts of meat over-deliver than to braise them.

Holiday Beers

Dec 12, 2018
Anchor Brewing Company

This is the time of year when the breweries trot out their most special beers.  And nobody follows them closer than Hugh Sisson. Click the links to purchase Cellar Notes recommendations at Kenilworth Wine & Spirits.