Expunge Him

Plus: Tudor Mania

Expunge Him

Culinary assassins: Apparently Mark Stuertz never listened to his mother's admonishment to "don't say anything if you don't have anything nice to say." Like his predecessor Mary Brown Malouf, apparently the Dallas Observer prefers to hire verbose assassins rather than skilled journalists who are knowledgeable food critics.

Your rambling tirade about our caviar and salmon selection ("Grape Lift," July 25) could only be described as an embarrassing display of your lack of journalistic skills. A critic's job is to critique from a professional point of view, not to talk about personal preferences. Was our caviar good, bad, excellent, over- or underpriced, served elegantly or poorly, how did it compare to other offerings of caviar around town or around the country? Somehow those key elements got left out for the reader. Did you actually bother tasting our caviar?

You obviously write with a thesaurus in hand while lacing your writing (I assume to try to impress us unwashed masses) with frequent, though mostly poorly or even incorrectly used, adjectives. My favorite in this article was, "But couldn't they offer some tar-back lumpfish millet." The operative word here being millet, which Mr. Webster defines as "a small seeded annual and forage grass." It was, however, followed closely by "explaining which fish (size, age) expunge it." If fish expunged (which means to destroy, obliterate or delete) their eggs, we wouldn't have a lot of fish around.

What exactly are your qualifications to be a food and wine writer? Were you a chef, are you trained in classic culinary arts, were you a waiter, busboy, worked as a wine salesman in retail or wholesale, degree in journalism, master of wine, ever studied wine?

Real people spend their entire life working very hard to build up their restaurants, and most are responsive to healthy criticism from knowledgeable sources. The finest food and wine writers in America are sensitive to the individuals they write about. They realize that their comments affect the lives of people they talk about, and in fact those restaurants are why critics have a job in the first place. They write informed, well-written, constructive articles about both the good and the bad.

Fortunately for Marty's, Dallas has The Dallas Morning News, which just gave us four stars (out of only 14 in Dallas) last month and was the antithesis of your review.

Larry M. Shapiro
President, Marty's

Tudor Mania

The bulldozer stops here: While it certainly made for dramatic reading, your article on conservation in East Dallas ("Trouble in the House of Tudor," July 25) sounds more like an attempt to make a McMansion out of a molehill. The truth is, there's been much more consensus than controversy, at least in the Greenland Hills neighborhood. How do I know? Because I've attended every single meeting, both formal and informal, and have corresponded with or spoken to hundreds of homeowners during the petition drive. I found the vast majority of my neighbors to be thoughtful, articulate and reasonable...including most of those who declined to sign the petition. Though some difference of opinion is inevitable when trying to get 918 households to agree on anything, we've tried hard to keep the movement as inclusive as possible. There's no excuse for the sort of behavior directed toward Mr. Eisenberg, the owner of the modern home on McCommas. Equally, there was no justification for the hostile, anonymous phone calls I received after appearing in a Dallas Morning News article on conservation.

So let's just be clear; extremists exist on both sides of the issue. The real story won't push nearly so many papers, but for those who are interested, here it is: There are a handful of Greenland Hills homeowners who are vehemently opposed to the conservation district. Judging from petition "no" responses and their presence at the city meetings, the opposition accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of the neighborhood. That's probably a generous estimate. Based on volunteer participation, about twice that number vehemently support conservation. The rest of the homeowners run the gamut from generally favoring conservation to not being that concerned one way or the other.

Yes, a neighborhood is more than just buildings. And I'm proud to say that most of the people who live inside these houses are just as charming and diverse as the homes themselves. Greenland Hills includes all sorts of people: working-class and well-to-do; gay and straight; white, Asian and Hispanic; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; bankers and bohemians; young and old. If that's what your author meant when she called us all "yuppies," then thanks for the compliment. Most people in this neighborhood moved here because they appreciate vintage architecture. Why should they be attacked for wanting to keep it that way? After all, many planned communities in the suburbs have far more restrictive regulations on building than we are proposing for our CD. Those planned developments wouldn't allow someone from the M Streets to move an old house up there and place it on a lot in their neighborhood. Yet when homeowners here object to new houses that don't fit in, we're "elitists" and "yuppies."

The belief that high property values alone will prevent anything but eyesores from being torn down in the M Streets is not entirely accurate. A simple search of Dallas CAD will reveal a surprising number of homes in the $130K range--the point where demolition is currently considered economically feasible by builders. Not all of these homes are unattractive or beyond repair. In many cases, the low valuation is due to small square footage and/or lack of interior modernization. Often, these limitations could be corrected by adding on and updating...but that's more difficult and (key phrase here) less profitable than just scraping it off the lot and starting over.

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