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Michelin honors 13 more California restaurants as ‘new discoveries’

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Michelin honors 13 more California restaurants as ‘new discoveries’


The dining world’s prestigious Michelin Guide on Wednesday dropped another one of its occasional midseason lists of “new discoveries” — restaurants that impressed its inspectors.

“Their discoveries are too good to keep secret,” the announcement said.

Of the 13 discoveries, three are in San Francisco, one is in Oakland and one’s in Healdsburg. The other eight are located in Southern California, with six in Los Angeles, one in Santa Barbara and one in La Jolla.

These establishments are listed as “New” on guide.michelin.com. Michelin highlighted “new discoveries” for the first time in the summer of 2021, and has done so every year since.

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Will the praise for these restaurants be elevated to Michelin stars in August, when the 2024 star announcements are held in Half Moon Bay? Or become Bib Gourmand honors, the Michelin awards given to restaurants that offer “excellent food at reasonable prices” to diners? It’s a wait-and-see situation for these chefs.

The summer 2023 star announcements solidified California’s reputation as a culinary mecca, reaffirming all six of the state’s three-star restaurants and all 12 two-star restaurants and praising hundreds of others for impressive cuisine, affordable meals or high sustainability standards.

Here are the Bay Area additions, along with dining notes from the Michelin inspectors:

BURDELL, Oakland: “Chef Geoff Davis named this nostalgic, homey Temescal spot after his grandmother, whose cooking informs his own fresh personal take on soul food. The small menu is a blend of staples like collard greens and fried chicken (though these are tweaked with the addition of berbere and pickle brine, respectively), novelties like an appetizer of chicken liver mousse with cornmeal waffle, and more broadly contemporary, Southern-inflected fare like a halibut crudo with buttermilk and grapefruit, or dry-aged duck with cherry “drippings” and dirty rice. Desserts follow a similar style, like strawberry shortcake with strawberry rhubarb jam and sorghum whipped cream. A particularly thoughtful wine list offers a wealth of options for aficionados, and who doesn’t love fried chicken with champagne?”

AZALINA’S, San Francisco: “Chef Azalina Eusope continues to make her mark as an ambassador for Malaysian cuisine in this cleverly designed space that calls to mind a tropical hideaway ensconced in the rough-and-tumble Tenderloin. The menu is a frequently changing seasonal prix fixe with dishes that offer her own interpretation of flavors she grew up with — think California meets Penang. Quality ingredients and creativity are hallmarks, seen in a dish of ‘economy noodles’ with fermented chili paste, topped with barbecued quail and toasted hazelnuts, or steelhead trout baked in banana leaves. Her pastry training is evident in a complex dessert of pandan custard with water chestnut and coconut granita, served with a take on kuih kasturi, a mung bean fritter filled with jackfruit and sweet red bean.”

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HED 11, San Francisco: “Perched in a swanky space at the corner of the Kimpton Hotel Enso, this ambitious Thai project from Chef Piriya “Saint” Boonprasan and owner Naruephon “Billie” Wannajaro gives a hint to its concept right in the name: an 11-course menu that celebrates regional Thai flavors with a contemporary style. The price point doesn’t lend itself to dining on a budget, but despite its variety, the meal won’t over-tax your schedule, with most of the courses arriving together as a sort of miniature banquet for the main. Sweet and savory are blended throughout the menu, whether in bites like a coconut pancake with lime and caviar, a take on khanom jeen sao nam with seared scallop paired with chilled rice noodles, tangy pineapple, and garlic, or even a Thai-style cheesecake with crispy fried onions and passionfruit syrup.”

TIYA, San Francisco: “Brothers Sujan and Pujan Sarkar combine their talents as co-chefs at this boutique space at the edge of Cow Hollow. Their cooking deploys seasonal produce like squash blossoms, artichokes and ramps to lend a Californian edge to an intriguing contemporary take on Indian cuisine. Both a la carte and tasting options give equal billing to vegetarian dishes and feature lively textures, whether it’s tender, keema-style jackfruit with crunchy potato, or an eggless take on a bhurji roll, made with paneer and crispy kataifi. The elegant room adds an additional layer of sophistication, down to a well-appointed bar, which offers unique cocktails named in honor of San Francisco neighborhoods.”

MOLTI AMICI, Healdsburg: “Wine country certainly has no shortage of this sort of casual Italian eatery, with a menu featuring the expected wood-fired pizzas and house-made pastas — but few of them manage to hit their mark quite so dead on as they do here. They may not be reinventing the wheel, but those pizzas are ideally blistered and feature simple but compelling toppings like squash blossom with fontina and balsamic, and the pastas, like a satisfying take on bucatini amatriciana topped with crunchy bread crumbs, offer an ideally al dente chew. On one of Healdsburg’s not-infrequent balmy days, the enclosed patio, complete with bocce court, is indeed an excellent spot to gather with ‘many friends,’ as suggested by the name.”



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Los Angeles Zoo has record-breaking 2024 California condor breeding season

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Los Angeles Zoo has record-breaking 2024 California condor breeding season


The Los Angeles Zoo is making strides in saving the California condor, America’s largest flying bird, from extinction.  

The zoo capped off its 2024 condor breeding season with a record-breaking 17 chicks hatched, breaking the record of 15 set in 1997.  

The large bird has a wingspan of nine-and-a-half feet, stands around three feet, and weighs between 17 to 25 pounds. Like vultures and other scavengers, condors feed on carcasses of large animals including deer, cattle, and marine mammals such as whales and seals. 

ca-condor-male-flying-photo-courtesy-of-l-a-zoo.jpg
The California condor has a typical wingspan of nine-and-a-half feet.

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Jamie Pham


According to the L.A. Zoo, the condors’ high mortality rate is mostly due to lead poisoning from eating lead bullet fragments or shot pellets found in animal carcasses. In recent years, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has become another growing threat to the species’ survival. 

In 1983, there were only 22 California condors remaining on the planet. This was when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Fish and Game Commission decided to create a captive breeding program for the species, which the L.A. Zoo entered as a founding partner. 

“The L.A. Zoo has been an integral partner in the recovery of the iconic California condor since the inception of the program in the 1980s when the species was at the brink of extinction,” Denise M. Verret, Los Angeles Zoo CEO/Zoo Director said. 

In 2017, the L.A. Zoo pioneered a new breeding technique where animal care staff placed two condor chicks with a surrogate condor to raise the chicks.  

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This year, the L.A. Zoo’s condor team implemented another first for the program, allowing three chicks to be raised at the same time by a female. This method also prevents human involvement, which leads to better survival rates for the birds once released in the wild.  

All the chicks bred at the L.A. Zoo are candidates for release into the wild.  

As of December 2023, there are 561 California condors in the world, of which 344 are living in the wild, according to the L.A. Zoo.  

While California condors are not on exhibit at the zoo, guests can participate in Condor Spotting, held daily (except Tuesdays) from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. Guests can also see Hope, a non-releasable California condor, at the Angela Collier World of Birds Show 12:00 p.m., daily, except Tuesday, weather permitting. 

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What the death of local news actually means

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What the death of local news actually means


Good morning. It’s Wednesday, July 24. I’m Gustavo Arellano, a metro columnist, which means I’m allowed to have opinions like:

Newspapers are cool.

But before I begin my rant, here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Whither the news industry in California?

Since I was a teen, I’ve lapped up newspapers.

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I used to steal the sports section from the rolled-up newspapers on the driveways of homes on the way to Sycamore Junior High in Anaheim. When I realized there was more to life than just the Angels and Dodgers, I’d jump a fence every Sunday morning to buy copies of the Orange County Register and L.A. Times from news boxes in my neighboring apartment complex. Once I got a job my senior year of high school, I subscribed to those two papers along with the New York Times.

I went into journalism straight out of college despite earning a film studies degree — I’ve never regretted it. But as the years went on, I ended my print subscriptions because I could read for free on the internet most of what I used to pay for.

An empty news rack that used to sell the Spanish-language newspaper Excélsior still remains along Bristol Street in a small shopping area in Santa Ana.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

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It’s people like me who launched the proverbial Little Boy that destroyed too many journalism outlets to count.

But the Fat Man remains companies like Craigslist, Google and Facebook, which eradicated the traditional business model of news organizations — advertising. This one-two punch has led to mass layoffs, shutdowns and a society where misinformation reigns.

Two bills currently in the California Legislature, Assembly Bill 886 and Senate Bill 1327, seek to confront this digital dystopia.

The former would require social media giants such as Facebook and search engines like Google to pay news outlets for using their content; the latter would use the revenue gathered from a proposed tax on user data gathered by Big Tech to gift news groups a tax credit for every full-time journalist they employ. The California News Publisher Assn., of which The Times is a member, supports AB 886, arguing it could give the state’s dying news industry — and local news — a lifeline.

(Tech companies vehemently oppose the bills, arguing it’s unfair to target them when the news industry hasn’t kept up with modernity and readers have more options to get their news than ever before.)

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These bills aren’t merely a desperate money grab by the lamestream press, folks.

A limping media ecosystem affects society in many ways — few of them good.

Times reporters investigated the decline of local news and what it actually means. Here’s what we found:

  • More big businesses control the narrative. The largest news source in Richmond, Calif., is owned by the Bay Area town’s largest business: Chevron. That means in a city where pollution concerns are real from the company’s refinery, its digital rag doesn’t say a damn thing, Jessica Garrison reported.
  • News that serves disenfranchised communities is ignored. Santa Ana is one of the most-Latino big cities in the United States. Twenty years ago, dozens of local semanarios (weekly papers) and all sorts of sports, entertainment and lifestyle magazines covered the goings-on of the city. Today, just two publications focused on entertainment fluff remain. I looked at how important issues affecting residents now get ignored.
  • Tech companies are intent on winning. Australia and Canada passed bills similar to what California legislators have proposed. Some money went to publishers, but tech bros created chaos by blocking news from their platforms, national correspondent Jenny Jarvie reported.
  • AI is only making things worse. AI chatbots might openly lift local journalists’ work and either pass it off as their own or mischaracterize it. “The average consumer that just wants to go check [out a restaurant], they’re probably not going to read [our article] anymore,” L.A. Taco editor Javier Cabral told Wendy Lee on AI’s effects on his scrappy indie site.
  • Even news nonprofits — long seen as a foolproof solution — are having a rough time of it: The Long Beach Post had eclipsed the 127-year-old Press-Telegram in readership and gravitas but now finds itself in tatters after nearly three-quarters of its reporters resigned over editorial and business disputes with management. Those defectors now have their own publication, the Long Beach Watchdog, James Rainey reported.
  • There are fewer reporters to hold power accountable. The people paid to objectively find out what people in power are trying to hide from you … we’re losing jobs like the Halos are losing fans, Ashley Ahn showed.

I thank you, gentle reader, for reading this newsletter, offer you a virtual high-five if you subscribe to Essential California, and gift you a digital gold star if you are a Times subscriber. And if you read this without paying us? We pardon you — and ask you to subscribe. Hey, $1 for four months is a deal anyone can afford, amirite?

Today’s top stories

 Kamala Harris speaks at a lectern

Vice President Kamala Harris campaigns at West Allis Central High School in West Allis, Wis.

(Kayla Wolf / Associated Press)

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Kamala Harris hits the trail

Coronavirus in California

How clean is your weed?

Fentanyl

  • The family of 3-year-old twins who died of a suspected fentanyl overdose is in shock. Relatives said they had no idea the boys’ mother used the opioid.
  • Their mother has been charged with murder.
  • Just last week, another toddler died of a fentanyl overdose. DCFS had trusted his mom’s friend to keep him safe

More big stories

Get unlimited access to the Los Angeles Times. Subscribe here.

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Today’s great reads

A plate of tacos is displayed at the Industrial Downtown Night Market.

A plate of tacos is displayed at the Industrial Downtown Night Market.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

How L.A. reached peak taco. To understand how Los Angeles became the world’s most taco-diverse city, let’s start with the taco truck.

Other great reads

How can we make this newsletter more useful? Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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For your downtime

Tacos at Bandito Taqueria.

Tacos at Bandito Taqueria.

(Andrea D’Agosto / For The Times)

Going out

Staying in

And finally … from our archives

Front page of the July 25, 1974 L.A. Times

On this day in history, the Supreme Court voted 8 to 0 that President Nixon had to turn over transcripts of the Watergate tapes to Special Counsel Leon Jaworski.

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Have a great day, from the Essential California team.

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Defne Karabatur, fellow
Andrew Campa, Sunday reporter
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor and Saturday reporter
Christian Orozco, assistant editor
Stephanie Chavez, deputy metro editor
Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

Check our top stories, topics and the latest articles on latimes.com.



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California Isn’t Enforcing Its Strongest-in-the-Nation Oil Well Cleanup Law on Its Largest Oil Company

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California Isn’t Enforcing Its Strongest-in-the-Nation Oil Well Cleanup Law on Its Largest Oil Company


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Last October, California passed the nation’s strongest law to address the glut of oil and gas wells that are unplugged and ownerless, many leaking pollutants into the environment.

The legislation required that, as part of any sale or transfer of wells, the purchasing company set aside enough money in financial instruments known as bonds to cover the entire cleanup cost of low-producing wells if the companies go out of business without plugging them. It was a striking departure from the piecemeal steps taken by other state legislatures and federal agencies to reduce the number of orphan wells. California lawmakers repeatedly cited ProPublica’s work on the subject as a reason to act.

But in its first major test, California regulators sidestepped the law.

The California Geologic Energy Management Division, the state’s oil regulatory body, announced in late June that the law does not apply to the merger of California Resources Corp. and Aera Energy, two of the three companies that account for the vast majority of the state’s oil and gas production. If the law had been enforced, the deal would have provided billions of dollars in new bonds to ensure taxpayers weren’t eventually left with the cleanup bill.

Department of Conservation Director David Shabazian explained the agency’s decision in a letter to Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, the Los Angeles Democrat who sponsored the new law. The bonding requirements “do not apply to stock transfers, nor does the law make any mention of such transactions,” Shabazian wrote. In other words, because Aera is still listed as the operator of the wells, the state can’t act.

That explanation did not appease Carrillo.

“This deal is exactly why we passed AB 1167, the Orphaned Well Prevention Act,” she said in an email to ProPublica and Capital & Main. “If a company is drilling for oil in California, they should be responsible for cleaning and closing that oil well. Not enforcing the law as intended sets-up our state for a potential financial catastrophe.”

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The merger created the largest oil company in the state, with about 16,000 idle wells, which neither produce oil and gas nor are plugged and are at a higher risk of becoming orphans. That’s 40% of the total number of idle wells in the state.

“It’s an absurd interpretation of the law,” said Kyle Ferrar, who helped write AB 1167 as Western program coordinator with environmental group FracTracker Alliance. “They’re essentially creating a model to get around this bill.”

Richard Venn, a California Resources spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that the companies have plugged more than 5,000 wells and “have active and well-established programs for managing the full life cycle of wells and we have the size and financial resources to address all of our plugging obligations. The merger strengthens those resources.”

“Enormous Dereliction of Duty”

The majority of California’s remaining oil and gas production comes from western Kern County, including massive oil fields abutting Bakersfield.


Credit:
Mark Olalde/ProPublica

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In December, the California Geologic Energy Management Division wrote to the state’s oil companies notifying them that they should submit paperwork before completing “any acquisition” — agency staff bolded those words — to assist the state in determining necessary bonding levels under AB 1167. “This notice is to ensure that operators are aware of new bonding requirements that must be complied with in advance of acquiring certain wells and production facilities,” regulators wrote.

But the state concluded the California Resources and Aera merger didn’t trigger the bonding requirements because of the way it was structured.

In the state’s letter explaining regulators’ reasoning, Shabazian wrote that “if the operator of the well remains constant, changes in ownership of the operator’s holding company do not require new bonds.”

If regulators had applied the law to the merger, California Resources would have been required to put up an estimated $2.4 billion bond to guarantee Aera’s wells will be plugged, according to an analysis of state data. In comparison, that’s about eight times the total value of all outstanding cleanup bonds for all oil companies in the state.

Instead, Aera will continue operating with only a $3 million bond.

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“This particular transaction is itself tremendously consequential, potentially the most consequential transaction that the state will see,” said Kassie Siegel, a senior counsel with the environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity.

Siegel worries that the state’s “enormous dereliction of duty” opens a loophole for the industry. Regulators are “creating a roadmap for other companies to similarly evade the law,” she said.

The agency’s decision also came after Aera spent about $250,000 lobbying in California in the first quarter of the year, including on “1167 implementation,” according to the company’s lobbying disclosure form.

Neither Aera nor state regulators answered questions about the company’s lobbying.

Despite California Resources’ assertions that the company resulting from the merger is financially stable, it faces serious challenges.

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California Resources was formed when Oxy Petroleum spun off its West Coast assets, and the company has already gone through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. California Resources acknowledged in filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the merger left it and Aera with more than $1 billion in impending cleanup costs between them. In the records, the company also suggested that some of its key assets will reach the end of their economic lives in the coming years.

Aera, meanwhile, was sold by Shell and ExxonMobil in 2022 and ended up in the hands of German asset management group IKAV, investment fund Oaktree Capital Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

IKAV did not respond to requests for comment, while the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Oaktree declined to answer questions.

The office of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who signed AB 1167 into law with a warning that it might need to be amended, also did not answer questions about whether he agreed with his agency’s interpretation of the legislation.

Aaron Cantú of Capital & Main contributed reporting.

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