Thursday, October 29, 2009

Riesling--A 2% Difference (And Some Random Thoughts To Boot)

I know I'm behind on local coverage as well as funny stuff and political postings. Between school, teaching, and the never-ending expansion of licensing and classes before I become a full fledged mortgage lender under Federal guidelines, time has been short.

But I promise to return.

First, we may or may not have a new Mayor in Nags Head. And the race in Southern Shores is equally interesting. (BTW, I am a big fan of Brian McDonald, if you live in SS, keep him there!)

Next, my old "buddy" Ray Midgett now has his own blog. It seems to be focused on Ray's usual areas of interest--no beach nourishment of any kind and a hawkish view on local government spending, so I expect to be a yo-yo in support and apoplexy regarding his posts.

We also have two new coffee venues in Nags Head set to open in November; the first a completely new store; the second a relocation/expansion of an old favorite. As soon as I find some time, we'll be there.

Lastly, I have some photos of my participation in the Nags Head Surf Fishing Tournament, and next week I'll be joining the team for the Cape Hatteras Angler's "Big Hatteras" Tourney. Nothing cooler than two nights at the Falcon Inn!

In the interim, a little wine break.

Riesling is a cool white wine. Mostly, it hails from Germany, the Alsace region of France, Austria, and in the United States, the Great Northwest. One can also find Riesling in Australia and New Zealand.

A well made Riesling can be easily identified by aroma alone. Its flowery, perfume-like scent is unique. Riesling comes in four versions; dry (not sweet), semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling. Of the first three, one can determine the sweetness by the alcohol content. If alcohol runs more than 12%, the wine will be dry, and since Riesling is very acidic, it will also be bracing. Between 10% and 12% alcohol, you will find the semi-sweet version, or "off dry". Below that level the wine is very sweet, which means it is high in sugar content. A 9% Riesling is such an example. If the grapes have been allowed to be "infected" by botrytis (known as "noble rot") the wine will be so sweet it is typically offered as a dessert wine and sold in small, expensive 375 ml bottles.

I prefer the bone dry Rieslings, my wife the semi and sweet versions. The cool thing about this is that because of the high acidity, even a semi-sweet Riesling can stand up to spicy foods such as Thai or sushi served up with Wasabi. Thus, my wife and I alternate between the dry and off-dry versions.

If you are one of those people who think wine tasters are snobs or believe you cannot really discern the differences in wine, even if constructed from the same grape varietal, the above will allow a test that can be conducted for less than $30 total. Both wines are available at any national chain grocery store.

The wine on the left is a 2006 Washington Hills Riesling from the state of Washington. It weighs in at 11% alcohol content, making it an off-dry (semi-sweet) version. The wine on the right is a 2006 Babich Riesling. Its alcohol content is 13%, making it very dry.

I am willing to bet if any of my readers buy these two wines and taste them side-by-side, they will easily detect the difference between a dry and off-dry white. And, with a little swirling and sniffing of the glass, I suspect you will note the unique scent of Riesling, especially in the Washington Hills 11% version.

Of more interest, pair them both with something spicy, like Thai food. Even though one's intuition dictates that a semi-sweet wine would be cut down by the spices, you will find that both versions can stand up to Thai cuisine. The reasons? Riesling is still acidic, even when sweet. And, Thai food is built upon the presentation of sweet and sour flavors in contrast. A dry Riesling will cleanse the palate of the spice, a semi-sweet Riesling compliments and offsets the sour and hotness that is Thai food. In a perplexing puzzle, both work equally well with Thai food and even better with sushi if one prefers generous amounts of wasabi.

If you want to carry the experiment further, invite a group of friends, go to your local wine store, and ask for a creamy, oaky Chrardonnay. You'll see almost immediately that the oaky Chards will be washed out by the Thai flavors. Try that same Chard with creamy bisque and it will fit right in!

And to my friend Kathy who thinks this wine silliness is, well, silly, give this experiment shot!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Endorsements--Nags Head--Sadler & Remaley

To add to my previous post, apart from the mayoral race, we also have four candidates running for two Board of Commissioners seats. In Nags Head we do not use precincts, so all Commissioners are essentially "at large" and the top two vote recipients will win the seats.

This year, incumbents Anna Sadler and Doug Remaley are being challenged by Joseph Maione and Will Woolard. Maione formerly operated Maione's Italian restaurant, where La Fogota is presently located. Woolard is president of Dare Capital Management, LLC, a financial planning entity.

I am very satisfied with the performance of our incumbent commissioners and for that reason I am supporting both Remaley and Sadler. In the case of Remaley, we have a strong voice for property rights and oft times he displays a broader point of view in those discussions. Both he and Sadler are strongly in favor of beach nourishment, including maintaining interest in the Army Corps plan.

Over time, I have become more and more skeptical of the viability of the Army Corps renourishment plans, but until we debate the issue in Nags Head on a more science/return on investment platform versus the "class warfare" scenarios of past votes, I refuse to disregard the Army Corps as an option. I expect our elected officials to maintain the same open-mindedness.
Both challengers openly oppose the Army Corps plan. Maione goes further, claiming that somehow the only beneficiaries of refurbished beaches are ocean front property owners, rather than the town (and by extension, the entire county) at large. Given such a short-sighted point of view on what is essentially are primary revenue generator deserves a "no confidence" vote.

On election day, I'll be pulling the levers for Bob Oakes, Doug Remaley, and Anna Sadler.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Nags Head Mayor

Thanks to the power of email, especially cell phone powered access, I can stay current with local events even when I am out of town or too busy to follow the OBX print media. And so it was when an email popped up on my Blackberry concerning the Nags Head mayoral race between Renee Cahoon and Bob Oakes.

Cahoon ran a newspaper advertisement contrasting her votes on certain issues with those of Mr. Oakes. If one keeps up even remotely with the Nags Head Board of Commissioners, a cursory review of the subject advertisement reveals some literary license was taken.

If you wish to read an excellent point by point rebuttal of the advertisement's claims and how/why Mr. Oakes really voted, I'd advise one go straight to Bob's campaign site and read his response. It's right here.

If a mouse click is too much work (its cold, dreary and for many, a long work day) let me assure you that I have never heard Oakes oppose a southern terminal groin to help what we call "south beach" erosion here in Nags Head. But I have heard him express reservations about such groins becoming ubiquitous throughout the town and our State, a sentiment I share. The proposal he was asked to support was not specific to South Nags Head, it implied an endorsement statewide.

The issue of central sewerage is also a non-starter; I've never heard Oakes propose or support such a scheme on a town wide basis, and the votes referred to in the ad were specific to one potential new industry requesting access to an existing private sewer system.

In an earlier post, I endorsed Bob Oakes for mayor. As I mentioned before, it wasn't an easy decision. I consider Renee a friend and I've worked to elect her to office each and every time she has run. But times change, and this year, I believe Bob is the right person to lead Nags Head at this time. I hate opposing Renee, but I feel it is in the town's best interest if Bob Oakes leads us during these trying economic times. His personality, common sense, and the thoughtfulness he puts into the positions he takes reminds me of another excellent mayor--Bob Muller.

Check out the web site and learn more about the candidate.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Croatan Surf Club

If there are two words that haven't gone together when describing local accommodations, its been "luxury condos". That omission to our local quiver of spots to rest and relax has been corrected with the arrival of the Croatan Surf Club. My photography skills leave much to be desired, so I recommend you click on the link one sentence previous in order to fully appreciate this complex.

Before I go further, let me offer my usual disclaimer. We are not compensated in any manner when we review local commercial entities. In most cases I either know the owners (as in this situation) and want to see them succeed, a friend has referred me, or its serendipity.

I saw these up close and personal last weekend as my mother and sister stayed in them for a short vacation. Their unit was on the fourth floor, and was one of the side units that faces south instead of directly to the ocean. Nonetheless, the views were spectacular:

A luxury condo presence adds a second choice for families and groups who visit here at the same time. The OBX now hosts a large number of high-end vacation homes loaded with fantastic amenities including media rooms, spas, exercise and game rooms, huge swimming pools, indoor, outdoor, and multiple floor kitchens, and of course, enough bedrooms and baths to handle 20 people.

For those who prefer to vacation as a group but might wish to escape the hoards of relatives and friends at night and other times of the day, the Surf Club provides a viable alternative. Schedule early enough in the year and your entire clan can probably reserve enough units for everyone to be together without being "together". In the shoulder seasons, I suspect this is even easier to accomplish, which is one of many factors why every unit should be sold as of today. I believe the rental weeks and days on these condos will exceed those of free-standing homes.

Located in Kill Devil Hills, this is the only ocean front property I know of in an "X" flood zone, meaning flood insurance is dirt cheap. The beach in front of the Croatan looks to be an accretion zone rather.

In the rear one finds a huge kiddie pool, an even larger adult pool, plus an outdoor spa...

Kids pool.

Big pool.

Outdoor spa.

Too cold for you? Check out the indoor pool and spa!

Indoor spa above, pool below

A small exercise room and a game room replete with arcade games is also housed in this winter retreat.

On the west side of the dune line is a beautiful gazebo, deck chair area, and a walkover to the beach:

Within the four stories are a number of great floor plans. The first floor is all covered parking with owner storage. Second through fourth floor units range from "flats" to multi-level town home-style units. Size does matter, with square footage running from 1100 s.f. on the low end to a whopping 2000 s.f. for the larger units. My folks stayed in a flat with 3BR, 3 baths, and great Master, large oval tubs with spa nozzles, Bosch appliances, granite counters and wood flooring. Units come with washers, dryers, irons, blenders, and everything one needs to cook or mix libations.

Their unit also featured a flat screen TV in each room, remote controlled ceiling fans, tasteful art, furniture and wall accents, as well as tray ceilings for an added touch of craftsmanship.

Planning a visit? Stay here!

Better yet, if you're looking for a unique investment that is well-priced and has real ROI potential, I'm not sure why you don't already own one of these condos!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oink and Oyster Roast 2009--First Flight Rotary

One of the great pleasures of living on the coast, in the South, occurs when my two favorite food groups converge in one location. Seafood and southern cuisine, such as hush puppies, grits, catfish, fried chicken, and best of all---Pork BBQ.

Each year the First Flight Rotary Club (of which I am a member) holds their annual fundraiser, the Oink & Oyster Roast at Sunburn's Sports Bar & Grille in Kitty Hawk. This year marked our 8th Annual effort. For twenty bucks a head, participants are invited to consume all the steamed oysters and pork BBQ they can handle. The BBQ is prepared the night before on huge grills with hickory wood providing the requisite wood flavoring, something missing in so much commercial BBQ sold these days. Winston Hawkins and Mike Smith have handled the cooking of the BBQ for many years, and its about the only authentic Eastern NC pork BBQ you will find on the Outer Banks.

The oysters, brought in by Nixon's were from Louisiana this year, washed in salt water. We went through over 30 bushels that day. We try to use local oysters, but some years they aren't available.

All oysters are shucked by Rotary members, even raw ones if you prefer. In addition, sides include hush puppies (made on-site), potato salad, cole slaw, hot dogs for the kids, iced tea, and beer.

What is truly fascinating about our event is how many folks from out of town have begun to plan their off-season vacations to coincide with its occurance. The Oinkin' Oyster Roast takes place the Saturday before Columbus Day each October. It's a busy weekend which helps attendance. The Nags Head Surf Club's Invitational winds up the day before, and the Outer Banks Homebuilder's "Parade of Homes" is ongoing the same weekend. And of course, Columbus Day is a three-day weekend bringing in many off season visitors to enjoy our fall weather (and still warm ocean water).

We typically raise over $7,000 net from this event, and all the profits are recycled locally. Past receipients include the Food Pantry, Community Care Clinic, Dare County Special Olympics, hurricane relief (Isabel) and the Lost Colony.

Follow our web site this year, and whether local, coming on vacation, or making a day trip from Hampton Roads, buy your tickets online and bring it on!
Here are some pictures from this years event:

Crowd scene. Yours truly standing in the left...

Kearn's Lowman (Burgess, Lowman, Lay CPA), Gary High (Island Xpertees) and Sam Bentley (BB&T Bank) shucking away.

Winston Hawkins (Twiddy & Co Realty), the founder of this event, serving up the pig.

Rotarian kids and their friends help out making the hushpuppy batter.

George Wojcik serving adult beverages.

Jim Troutman (East Carolina Bank) and Larry Barker (Southern Insurance) makin' those 'puppies.

Victor Diaz and Carl Classen (Hyde County Manager) shucking. Victor is our resident pro, and brings his own tools and gear.

The serving line (far left--Jonathan Wark-Dare County Library) and far right (Debbie Diaz-KDH Town Manager).

Dan Sullivan (Ferguson's--left by himself), Russ Lay (far left) and Bob Davis (Beach 104 & Water Country Radio).

Mike Smith (Moose in the Morning-Beach 104) and Winston Hawkins.

Hot oysters off the steamer.

Russ & Bob

Sam Bentley finds himself all alone on the shucking.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Moving Slow in Afghanistan

News stories have concentrated on how President Obama will handle the recommendations of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the NATO commander in Afghanistan. His recommendations include adding up to 40,000 more troops, and some reports indicate as many as 80,000 more soldiers will be required to beat back the Taliban.

As we recall, during the campaign, President Obama characterized the Iraq War as misdirected, perhaps even unjust. He viewed the Afghan conflict as just, given that the September 11 bombers trained there. Thus, he promised to end the war in Iraq and expand our presence in Afghanistan.

The media and critics on the right have begun to criticize the President for not reacting immediately to the troop increase request. Obama's people have countered that when he ran for office, he promised to be a thoughtful, contemplative leader. So why criticize him now for taking his time to make what will be a momentous decision?

I agree. Afghanistan is not Iraq. The fact that a "surge" worked in Iraq does not predict similar success in Afghanistan. The forces we sought to destroy there were Al Qaeda operatives, not the Taliban leadership. Those forces, including Osama Bin Laden are now in Pakistan, where we ain't.

It seems our mission in Afghanistan has become yet another nation building exercise. The real bad guys are across the border or perhaps in Somolia or even the Sudan. If the Taliban return to power, I realize that Al Qaeda could also return. But, if we stay Al Qaeda seems content to remain in Pakistan and the Pakistani government helpless to stop them.

Numerous rash decisions were made in the course of going to war and executing the war in Iraq. If our Commander in Chief wants to take his time to make a major decision relative to the course of the war in Afghanistan, he should be allowed to do so. And, if he changes his mind and determines that the war may not be worth more lives and treasure, it certainly is not an indefensible position. In this instance, we are not experiencing waffling. This time, I give President Obama credit for acting like a leader...and a Commander in Chief.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nobel Committee Announces Next Three Peace Prizes

Not content with accepting the nomination of Barak Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize a mere 12 days after he took office and awarding it to him after nine months of service, the Nobel Peace Prize committee has announced the winners for 2010, 2011, and 2012.

2010--- Barak Obama for his work in still not being Republican or George W. Bush.

2011--Barak Obama for ending the war between Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner by banning the sale of weapons by one Acme, Inc to Mr. Coyote.

2012- Barak Obama for re-introducing the peacekeeping concept of "Mutually Assured Destruction" by "pressing the reset button" in our diplomatic relations and expanding those countries owning nuclear weapons to include Iran, North Korea, and Andorra.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moral Hazard?

And no, this isn't a post about morals, morality, or other judgmental criteria. If you need guidance there, talk to your spiritual adviser, or if you feel daring, consult David Letterman.

Instead, I am speaking of moral hazard in the economics/political science sense of the term. Moral hazard occurs when the presence of a factor, such as insurance coverage, actually causes an increase in risk taking--the exact opposite of the intended effect of the coverage.

Watching the government and the public at large wring their hands over the current economic crisis whilst demanding someone do something can be quite amusing to an ex-banker.

I cannot count the number of times customers would ask me how Bank "X" could pay such high rates on deposits and charge below-market rates on their loans. If I implied this strategy was usually a recipe for future problems, I was oft times met with the response "Oh well, the FDIC will cover it if the bank goes belly up". Moral hazard.

Risky mortgage lending? In many cases, the FDIC was hovering in the background (think Washington Mutual) to cover the depositors whose money the bank was lending. Moral hazard.

Risky lending from Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE's) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? There was an implied guarantee from the Federal government that their bad loans would be backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. That part was true. Just remember the government is all of us, at least when it comes to raising money. (And a billion or so Chinese citizens with no vote in the matter). Shareholders of FNMA/Freddie Mac also felt their investments were shielded by the Feds, even when the interest rate offered exceeded double digits. That part turned out to be false. Moral hazard.

The same misplaced faith follows us down many paths. We trust the USDA to insure the safety of the meats and plants we consume. In return for this variety of insurance, the local meat packing plant, or meat and poultry produced on small, local farms has been regulated out of business; the owners can't afford to pay the Feds for the full time USDA inspectors required. Thus, when the insurance coverage fails, as occurs more and more frequently, we experience massive outbreaks of diseases on a national scale since much of the food we consume is processed in large plants, owned by large companies. Include the importation of food products from other countries and the government often has a difficult time identifying the point of origin for the contaminated food. Moral hazard.

We have ceded so much of our well-being to the government, as citizens we no longer seem to care or worry about the safety of our financial institutions, insurance companies, pension funds, stock investments, or even the food we consume. Rather, we rely on alphabet organizations such as the FDIC, SEC, USDA and others to do our vetting for us. Sometimes, such as those instances where a bank offers a CD rate too good to be true, we knowingly engage in risky behavior because we realze there is a safety net below that protects us from our behavior, the FDIC. Likewise, folks at Washington Mutual could risk their depositor's money on ill-conceived loans because if the gamble went awry, most of the depositors would be reimbursed.

Even the concept of bankruptcy court and government mandated loan "work-outs" on bad borrowing decisions made by individual home buyers represent a form of insurance that offsets the true costs and consequences of risky behavior.

There were plenty of folks on Wall Street suffering moral lapses and even committing criminal acts. But for Americans to demand "justice" from these folks while taking no responsibility for the ceding of due diligence on their own part, particularly when millions of Americans engaged in risky investment and lending decisions, is somehow equally wrong and misguided.

Friday, October 2, 2009

More on Derb Carter, SELC, and the Radical Enviros

I can't say this any better, so follow this link from the Island Free Press (Hatteras Island) and their editor. When reading the linked blog above, follow Irene's link to a previous blog about SELC and the massive media spin (read: distortion) coming from both Audubon and Derb Carter's organization.