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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.

  • Part of the hearty approach to eating in winter is tucking into all manner of potatoes. Baked, roasted, mashed, worked into stews or fried up for breakfast, the possibilities go on and on. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has taught us, sometimes it's a matter of matching up the right kind of potato for the right dish.
  • Winter is the perfect time of year to enjoy a big hearty bottle of zinfandel, one of our most noble wines.
  • Maybe it's a guy thing: it's late afternoon and you'd love to have a snack, but a cookie or two doesn't appeal. You start thinking and then the image of a handful of beef jerky pops into your head and you gotta have it. As Chef Jerry Pellegrino has told me, if you had planned ahead you could have easily whipped up a mess of beef jerky all by yourself.
  • Sometimes you just need something with a little extra "oomph" to take the chill off a winter's evening. Fortified wines are never better than right now.
  • In the past few weeks the Holiday Season has seen us sitting down to all sorts of dinners, and chances are more than once the featured attraction has been a bird of some kind. And as Chef Jerry Pellegrino points out there's a lot more available than just good old chicken and turkey.
  • After the holidays everybody seems to be on a budget. Here are a few very well priced wines to add to your drinking pleasure.
  • As we noted several weeks ago, there's not a better time in the year for home-made soups than right now. Soup-making is one of those activities that invites creativity and improvisation. Chef Jerry Pellegrino, is all in favor for letting your imagination go to town whilst standing before the soup kettle.
  • (Nothing says "Happy Holidays" better than a glass of sparkling wine. Hugh has some great ideas.
  • In a couple days we'll be bidding farewell to the challenging year of 2021 and welcoming the New Year. I think quite a few of us will be hosting or attending small get-togethers with well-vaccinated friends, and the question always arises: what should be eat? Our friend Chef Jerry Pellegrino, has a whole passel of tips for our listeners.
  • A nice bottle of good red wine is a welcome gift this time of the year. Hugh has been looking around for some good buys.