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Toronto’s three lady elephants are moving to California in a month (for real this time)

Finally, after years of bickering and delays, Toronto’s prolonged pachyderm saga is drawing to a close. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Toronto Zoo’s biggest, wrinkliest residents, Toka, Iringa and Thika, will embark on an epic, 50-hour road trip to their new home at an animal sanctuary in California. Former Price Is Right host and animal lover Bob Barker is, as promised, funding the trio’s transport, even though his preferred plan to fly them via either a military plane or a Russian cargo jet fell through. The elephants will, however, be able to soothe their aching post-journey muscles in a therapeutic Jacuzzi once they get set up in their west coast digs. Sounds awfully nice. [Global]

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Another nostalgia-themed food truck takes to Toronto streets

Beach Boys Food Truck

(Image: Facebook)

First, Crossroads Diner, a food truck covered in painted images of 1950s American icons and serving kitschy diner food, popped up in Toronto two weeks ago. Now, a roving restaurant with a ’60s California surf culture theme has hit the city’s streets. The Beach Boys Food Truck is painted aqua blue and sunshine yellow and is serving classic American greasy spoon dishes, like mushroom garlic burgers and chicken fingers and fries.

Beach Boys Food Truck, beachboysfoodtruck.com, @beachboystruck

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a delicious Californian red from an unexpected grape

Weekly Wine PickTrentadue 2010 La Storia Petite Sirah

$23.95 | Alexander Valley, California | 93 points
Petite sirah is a black grape variety that has lurked on the fringes of California’s fine wine scene for generations. Its wines are powerful and sturdy but often one-dimensional, so it’s largely used as a blending variety, often bolstering red zinfandel. But occasionally—when harvested from very old vines—it can soar on its own. In this excellent example, some of the vines are over 100 years of age.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a serious California Zinfandel

Weekly Wine PickSeghesio 2010 Sonoma Zinfandel

$29.95 | Sonoma County, California | 91 points
Californians like to think of fruity, rich zinfandel as their signature wine, but few pay it real respect. Many zins nowadays are too sweet, too chocolatey and too soupy. The Seghesio family specializes in serious and structured zinfandel, and sells a range of bottles from single vineyards, anchored by this larger-production Sonoma County wine.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a cabernet lover’s cab from Jack London’s vineyard

Weekly Wine PickKenwood 2009 Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

$37.95 | Sonoma Valley, California | 91 points
The French have a great term for certain wines that draw you contemplatively into their world: vins de meditation. Kenwood’s Jack London Vineyard Cabernet has always drawn me in that way, summoning a powerful image of the Call of the Wild author writing away in the cabin atop the hill where this vineyard was first planted in the 1860s. The wine itself has this kind of outdoorsy, tough ambiance as well—I strongly suspect it fuelled some of his evenings at the desk.

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The New Guard: the best of the bunch from the LCBO’s fall release

David Lawrason Portrait

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Fashion is fickle, even in wine. There are occasional stampedes toward trendy brands: Argentina’s Fuzion and Australia’s Yellow Tail went the oenological equivalent of viral. And then there are deeper changes in taste over time. Two such seismic shifts have occurred over the last few years. The first is an acceptance of blends. The word is freighted with negati­vity because the cheapest wines are often thrown-together blends. However, some of Europe’s best wines have always been blends, and vintners elsewhere are starting to craft new fusions. The second change is a taste for lesser-known appellations. Languedoc in France and Sicily in Italy are challenging the market supremacy of overpriced wines from Bordeaux and Tuscany. In the New World, regions like Paso Robles in California and Leyda in Chile are taking on icons like Napa Valley and Maipo—and the newcomers are often more affordable. I’ve sifted through the LCBO’s massive fall infusion for the best of both trends.

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Jesse Brown: Why local tech wizards are taking their big brains and bright ideas elsewhere

When a University of Waterloo grad used crowdfunding to raise $10 million for his smart watch company, the tech industry took notice. Is this the future of venture capitalism?

Jesse Brown: The Smart Money

On the day I speak to Eric Migicovsky, he has been a millionaire for less than two months. The 26-year-old is the inventor of the Pebble, a clever watch that wirelessly syncs with your smart phone, pushing emails and texts to your wrist and controlling things like music so you needn’t pull out your phone while jogging or biking. When he couldn’t interest venture capitalists in Pebble, Migicovsky asked the Internet. He crowdfunded the project on Kickstarter, a site that lets creators gather seed money from the masses. “The night before we launched,” he remembers, “I was thinking how cool it would be to hit our $100,000 mark.” Pebble blew past that target in a few hours. When the campaign ended five weeks later, Migicovsky had made Kickstarter history, raising a record $10,266,845 from
68,929 backers.

His story has already become part of start-up lore. Got a great idea? No need to go hat in hand to banks or venture capitalists. Just do what Migicovsky did and pitch it online. More than any other project, Pebble has introduced the concept of crowd­funding to the public, and nowhere has the news been covered more enthusiastically than in Canada. That’s because Migicovsky is Canadian, raised in Vancouver and educated at the University of Waterloo. But he doesn’t live here anymore. He and his company have moved to Silicon Valley. They had to, or Pebble might never have happened.

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The Toronto Zoo’s elephants won’t fly until August (at the earliest)

An easier way to fly an elephant (Image: ckramer)

For a moment, it looked as though the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants would (at long last) fly out to the PAWS sanctuary in California later this month. But it turns out, no, the zoo is still conducting a due diligence review of PAWS amid continuing debate about the presence of tuberculosis at the sanctuary. While some councillors, including Glenn De Baeremaeker and Michelle Berardinetti are optimistic Iringa, Toka and Thika will be airborne by August, we won’t believe it until the elephants are at cruising altitude, eating their in-flight peanuts. Or, more accurately, chained inside crates in their Soviet-designed cargo plane. [Toronto Star]

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Introducing: Easy Restaurant, the College Street outpost of the classic Parkdale breakfast joint

(Image: Susan Keefe)

With the advent of brinner and the dizzying popularity of all things bacon, it’s not surprising that all-day breakfast joints like the Parkdale institution Easy Restaurant are doing well. The ultra-laid-back California-inspired spot cut its teeth at the foot of Roncesvalles Village, and last month it set its sights on Little Italy, opening a sister location on College. We dropped by to check it out.

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Spirit of the West: David Lawrason picks nine bottles from California’s booming crop

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Last year, for the first time in history, the United States consumed more wine than any other country (even out-tippling France and Italy), and most of it came from California. Golden State wine is booming beyond U.S. borders, too. Global exports totalled a record-breaking $1.25 billion last year, and in Canada, sales of California wines were up 21 per cent over 2010 as our loonie hit parity with the U.S. dollar. There are some great new Rhône-inspired syrahs and grenaches from the rapidly growing Paso Robles region, but by and large California is sticking to what it does best—chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, zinfandel and pinot noir—but with more refinement. Winemakers are matching grapes to their ideal micro-climates, using sustainable growing practices to ensure healthier soils and correcting the over-oaking and excess alcohol heat that has marred the state’s signature wines. Many of these sophisticated standards are now hitting LCBO shelves. Here, nine of my favourites.

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Turns out, some fish stocks are actually on the rebound

Summer flounder, Bering sea snow crab and Washington State coho salmon (Images: courtesy NOAA)

Most reports about ocean fish stocks tend to be pretty ominous, but at last there’s some good news about fish populations. The New York Times’s Green blog points to new numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that suggest six species are on the rebound and have already reached healthy population levels. The Bering Sea snow crab, the summer flounder on the mid-Atlantic coast, the haddock in the Gulf of Maine, the chinook salmon along the northern California coast, the coho salmon off Washington State and the Pacific widow rockfish are all back in a big way, thanks in part to not-so-popular government catch limits. The agency also found that 27 fish stocks have been returned to health in the past 11 years (NOAA also runs a neat consumer-oriented site with sustainable seafood information). Maybe now we can feel a little less guilty about how we get our omega-3 fix. But only a little less. [New York Times]

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Bob Barker and Giorgio Mammoliti face off in the Toronto Zoo elephant saga

(Image: John Vetterli)

The Price Is Right icon Bob Barker is riled up (but not this riled up, thank goodness) that Toronto Zoo management is delaying sending its remaining three elephants to his sanctuary of choice. The animal lover is threatening to withdraw his offer to pay for the elephants’ $800,000 flight to California (via private aircraft, no less) unless there’s an “ironclad guarantee” that they’ll make it to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary, near Sacramento. Problem is, talks between Toronto Zoo chief executive John Tracogna and PAWS director Ed Stewart have gone so badly that they now only speak to each other via lawyers, and zoo staff have waged a campaign against PAWS, claiming elephants there have tuberculosis. Then there’s Giorgio Mammoliti, the former chair of Toronto Zoo’s board, who has tried to stop the deal since the zoo allegedly lost its accreditation over the plan to send the elephants to PAWS, which doesn’t have the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ stamp of approval. Trying to salvage the deal, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, who orchestrated the vote last October when council decided to move the elephants, has challenged Mammoliti and Tracogna to go to PAWS with her next week to check it out—but we doubt Barker would cover the airfare for that trip. [Toronto Star]

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Toronto Zoo loses its accreditation and Rob Ford loses his cool

Thika, Iringa or Toka—we still haven’t figured out how to tell them apart (Image: Phil Marion)

We’ve been following the saga of the Toronto Zoo’s efforts to relocate its trio of elephant dames for months, but things just got serious (even more serious than Bob Barker’s offer of a private aircraft). The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has taken away the zoo’s accreditation, apparently because city council voted to send Iringa, Thika and Toka to a California sanctuary not recognized by that illustrious body. Without the AZA’s stamp of approval, the zoo can’t take part in species survival programs. Plus, exchange programs with accredited zoos must be assessed on a case-by-case basis (don’t worry, though—the giant panda visit is still a go). Rob Ford took the opportunity to deliver some political jabs, unleashing what sounded like several weeks of pent-up anger at council, whose vote to send the elephants to the sanctuary had overturned recommendations by zoo staff. “Council sometimes thinks they know better, and this is a perfect example of when they don’t know better,” he told reporters. No prizes for divining what other examples he may be thinking of. [Globe and Mail]

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Bob Barker offers $880,000 for Toronto elephants to fly private

(Image: fireballk2588)

The estimated cost to Bob Barker to charter a private plane and bring Toronto Zoo’s trio of elephants to a California sanctuary: $880,000. The one-time The Price Is Right host and all-time sweetheart is making good on his offer to cover airfare for the Zoo’s much-talked-about elephants. Apparently, Iringa, Thika and Toka will travel by private jet because Iringa has a bad foot, ruling out a long-haul road trip. And you didn’t expect them to fly coach, did you? Read the entire story [Globe and Mail] »

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Toronto Zoo’s elephants could be guzzling Gatorade on their way to a hot tub party in Cali

With the Toronto Zoo’s three remaining elephants—the all-female trio of Toka, Iringa and Thika—ready to depart for a warmer locale, the Toronto Star offers a look at what the Detroit Zoo did to move two of its own animals to the PAWS sanctuary in California (to which we say, Detroit? Really?). Apparently, the pair of pachyderms was loaded onto a truck equipped with remote cameras and thermometers that enabled zoo staff to monitor the animals and keep tabs on the temperature. Also, the truck contained a healthy supply of Gatorade—the elephants need to be properly hydrated in time to hit the Jacuzzi, after all. Read the entire story [Toronto Star] »

(Images: hot tub, Jeannine Cousin; elephants, Thierry)

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