Praise for the Putrid
That stench you detect comes from our very own political cesspool: I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed and appreciated Jacob Bernstein's article about Tomas Mestre ("Greed Stinks," November 15). The depth, the effort, and the journalistic excellence were quite apparent. It is refreshing to see a reporter who has the courage to approach subjects like these. In this part of the world there is so much corruption, stonewalling, and special favors granted to political cronies that it disgusts me. It is a cause for embarrassment when discussed in other parts of the nation by my out-of-town friends. This case of environmental pollution is just another in the long list of thinly disguised, never-ending instances that continue to spring forth.
Best of luck to the folks down in the Redland. They deserve to live the American dream and have a safe place for their families. As for Mr. Bernstein, he is well on the way to a brilliant future as a journalist.
James F. Kelley
We Have a Right to Fight
And we're neither crazy nor irresponsible, despite what you say: After reading the letter from former Key Biscayne Village Councilman Gregory Han (November 15), I can only say we should be very grateful Mr. Han was voted out of office in the most recent election. His remarks are typical of those opposed to the efforts of the Coalition to Save Paradise. They love to deny that the coalition represents a majority of the voters of Key Biscayne, but yet they objected vigorously to placing a referendum on the ballot to change the village charter and put a debt cap on future capital projects. If they were firmly convinced that the majority of the voters were behind them, what were they afraid of?
They like to use terms such as "crazies" or "naysayers" or "Johnny-come-lately" to describe the members of the Coalition. Mr. Han and his cronies should be made aware that the Coalition has more than 1000 active members and a substantial number of supporters, all of whom are well-educated, well-respected, and successful. They are exemplary citizens who love this community and are willing to fight for what they consider important. All of us should be thankful to those members of the coalition who in the past fought hard battles to keep Key Biscayne from becoming another sprawling suburb.
Let me repeat again that the coalition has never objected to a civic center in Key Biscayne. As Jacob Bernstein reported ("If You Build It, They Will Come Unglued," October 25), the coalition objects to the monstrosity that is being built and its location. We were never asleep during the so-called information meetings about the civic center. The fact is that Mr. Han, the present village council, and the citizens of this community were deceived from the very beginning about the actual size, cost, and contents of these buildings; the true scope of the project was totally distorted. Now that the whole community can visualize the actual size of the buildings under construction, more and more citizens are joining the coalition to stop construction.
The hundreds of residents whose lives and property values were going to be affected by the massive intrusion of the civic center had a right to be heard. They were denied due process. Their present course of action should not be labeled as irresponsible behavior but rather as their constitutional right to protest.
Cold Warrior in a Time Warp
This guy belongs in a museum, not in a State Department office: Regarding Kirk Nielsen's article about Otto Reich ("Waiting for Otto," November 8), once again we see how out of touch is the Republican Party's foreign policy. Reich is a Cold War-era relic, a payback to the hard-line Cubans in Miami and really nothing else. He's also a big liar.
Most Latin countries are not the banana republics they once were. Yes, most are poor and belong to the so-called Third World, but U.S. influence is diminishing. They don't want other countries telling them how to run their affairs.
I pray to God that Republican Party hard-liners open their eyes and are sent packing in 2004.
I Bake, Therefore I Pan
Excuse me, but am I the only one who thinks Miami is clueless about dough? Lee Klein's article "Pan Can Do" (October 18) attests to the fact that South Florida knows nothing of baked goods. Miami is a town plagued with third-rate Cuban bakeries that offer an unpalatable array of low-quality breads, cakes, and pastries. Now we have been infested with a Venezuelan import, a place that sells cakes that not only deceive you with a tempting façade but also dare you to find even a single crumb worthy of human consumption.
Don Pan's pastries too are a crushing disappointment. They taste like the grease stench that wafts out of restaurant alleys. And the breads? Well, I will concede that the one redeeming product is the big cheese loaf, but I have found crustier baguettes in Publix. Unfortunately the Latin-Caribbean consumer, an overwhelming majority in Miami, has yet to be exposed to quality pastries and breads, so the demand here is for substandard products.
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Three years ago I had the culinary misfortune of spending two months in Venezuela and can regrettably say my gagging reflexes were never so violently tested. I spent many intimate meals getting to know a pineapple, the only Venezuelan victual that did not taste like I was licking the pavement at an Amoco station. I will be as diplomatic as my current rage allows by stating that Venezuelan cuisine (and I use the term charitably) should be perfected in Venezuela before being attempted abroad.
Being a pastry chef, I may hold some unrealistic expectations. I have savored the flaky beauty of all-butter puff pastry, and I know the glory of a fresh napoleon made with vanilla bean pastry cream. When a food critic cannot differentiate between quality and swill as it applies to bakeries, I feel obliged to speak out. And what if he does know the difference but is just one of Don Pan's henchmen intent on promoting blasphemous baked goods? I know it sounds harsh, but how else to explain why an epicure like Mr. Klein would so misguidedly praise Don Pan? How sad that he does not frequent a bakery where the cream is fresh, the fruit real, and the frostings are not borne of powder.
I will end with a heartfelt prayer for all the noble bakers out there who are up all night, kneading lovingly. May their plight not be in vain. May they continue to do what Don Pan can't do.