Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, May 4. Here's a look at the top stories of the past week:
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Priest abuse investigation: The priest abuse scandal in California took a dramatic turn with news that the state attorney general is investigating how the L.A. archdiocese — and potentially other Catholic units — handled allegations of molestation over the decades. It's been a long road getting to this point.
Population bust: Why was California’s 2018 population growth the slowest in recorded state history? One factor is changing immigration patterns: Fewer people from Latin America, more from Asia. And these new immigrants are having fewer children.
Power of myth: There are many lessons we can take from the national obsession over “Game of Thrones” and the “Avengers” films.
Grim toll: Nipsey Hussle’s death stirred an outpouring of grief worldwide, but he was one of 29 people who have lost their lives within the boundaries of the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau so far this year.
Healthcare crisis: A new L.A. Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll offered dramatic evidence that soaring deductibles and medical bills are pushing millions of American families to the breaking point, fueling an affordability crisis that is pulling in middle-class households with health insurance as well as the poor and uninsured.
Community of courage: Every Thursday in Long Beach, a group of transgender women ranging in age from their early 20s to 60s catch up, swap advice and talk about past traumas.
THIS WEEK’S MOST POPULAR STORIES IN ESSENTIAL CALIFORNIA
1. What really happened at Rustic Canyon’s rumored Nazi ranch? Here’s the true history. Curbed LA
2. A homeless Oakland couple moved into a $4-million Piedmont home. Then came the calls to police. SFGate
3. Millennials just weren’t eating raisins. So Sun-Maid hired someone to convince them that they should. New York Times
4. Here’s how little most Bay Area families can afford — and how the housing crisis is transforming the region. Mercury News
5. This flowchart will help you make sense of California’s transit-housing bill. Curbed SF
Saturday Recommendation: The family-style Basque dinner at Bakersfield’s Noriega Hotel
Our weekly recommendation offers a succinct pitch for a single great thing around the state — be it a restaurant meal, a specialty bookstore, or the stairs to climb for the best view of an iconic vista.
There is a red door under a green awning on a slightly barren stretch of Sumner Avenue in Bakersfield that is actually a portal, like the magical wardrobe in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Open it and you shall be transported, back to when this was still a sheep town and Basque immigrants poured into the great Central Valley from the Pyrenees.
If you’re lucky, an older Basque couple a few stools over will regale you with history and insist you order the signature Picon Punch (a cocktail made with a difficult-to-find French apertif, brandy and a dash of grenadine) at the dark wood bar before dinner.
Do not expect to select an entree or have your own table when you’re finally called to your seat. Dinner is served communally and plates will cascade out of the kitchen in gusts and spurts. Think beef tongue, little plates of cottage cheese, spaghetti heaped with red sauce, dishes of vegetables and creamy wedges of blue cheese.
Those copious sides are a nightly constant, but the specials vary by day (I’m partial to the Sunday beef stew). The food is pretty good, and some dishes are even great, but the true pull of the $25 family-style dinner at this former boarding house in Kern County won’t be found on your plate.
Along with half a dozen or so other restaurants scattered amid the warehouses in this part of Bakersfield, the 126-year-old Noriega Hotel forms the epicenter of Basque culture in California. If you’re coming from outside the area, you’ll pass endless chain restaurants and anywheresville motels on the highway here. But once you sit down at Noriega’s, you’ll be somewhere. So pass the table wine, start talking to the people next to you and relish the specificity.