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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.

  • Have you ever wondered how some wines get that extra little kick?
  • Growing up in Maryland back in the day, we were treated to the superb photography of A. Aubrey Bodine, who had a genius for depicting life on and around the Chesapeake Bay. Some of my favorite pictures of his depicted watermen hauling in their catches of fresh local oysters. Bodine always seemed to go out in the dead of winter, and as Chef Jerry Pellegrino says, we all owe a big debt of thanks to those intrepid watermen who manage to get the job done despite conditions that would terrify the rest of us.
  • It's easy to get stuck in a rut with potatoes. We all have our two or three favorite recipes... and then, that's it. So just to give your imagination a jolt, we've come up with a few potato ideas that will get you moving on. As Chef Jerry Pellegrino reminded me, there's more than baked potatoes and mash, right?
  • This time of year, a good bargain is a welcome sight; here are three good whitesPrice key: $=less than $20 $$= $20-40 $$$=$40-60 $$$$=above $60Quality key: * = decent wine ** = very good wine *** = superb wine ****= eliteVALUE = exceptional quality for the money
  • If you're feeling a little jaded, why not try something truly exotic: Sake!Price key: $=less than $20 $$= $20-40 $$$=$40-60 $$$$=above $60Quality key: * = decent wine ** = very good wine *** = superb wine ****= eliteVALUE = exceptional quality for the money
  • This is the season for the big roast, a time for festive dinners with close friends who enjoy a bit of hearty eating. And of all the big dishes you can have, the king of them all is the Standing Rib Roast. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino, this truly is an impressive dish to present to your guests, particularly since there are options on which meat to serve.
  • Most of us are on a tight post-holiday budget, so good buys in red wine make sense.Price key: $=less than $20 $$= $20-40 $$$=$40-60 $$$$=above $60Quality key: * = decent wine ** = very good wine *** = superb wine ****= eliteVALUE = exceptional quality for the money
  • Because I've been feeling self-indulgent lately, I've been looking for excuses to have dumplings... and something. It started with sour beef and dumplings, and of course after Thanksgiving I had to have turkey and dumplings. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino, I started getting curious about dumplings and I did a little digging.
  • We're in the heart of the holidays now, and we all could use a little advice on tasty alternatives to costly Champagne.Price key: $=less than $20 $$= $20-40 $$$=$40-60 $$$$=above $60Quality key: * = decent wine ** = very good wine *** = superb wine ****= eliteVALUE = exceptional quality for the money
  • At this festive time of year I bet half the world is just itching to get into the kitchen and bake something really good. This is season when all manner of specialty desserts come into play, and we end up using equipment and ingredients we won't touch for another 50 weeks. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino has a long list (which he's checking twice) of great baking ideas for the holidays.