Umami Mart Registry
[caption id="attachment_28505" align="alignnone" width="640"] Photo by Audrey Ma via Locol[/caption]

- New York Times food critic Pete Wells visited Oakland and reviewed Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi's fast-food chain, Locol. He gave Locol zero stars, explaining, "What I didn’t expect before I ate at the branch here was that the big problem would turn out to be the food." Wells dissed the Chili Bowl ("This was less like chili than like a slightly spicier version of the meat sauce my corner pizzeria pours over penne. Supermarkets sell canned chilis that are seasoned more persuasively."), the Fried Chicken Burg ("Locol’s chicken is an amalgam of chicken bits invisibly bound together. Inside a thin sheath of fried coating, this composite of ground meat is mysteriously bland and almost unimaginably dry."), the Cheeseburg ("Dry burgers made with filler bring me, at least, right back to school lunch and Boy Scout camp."), and the Veggie Cheeseburg ("It is more moist, but also a little gummy."). Ouch! ICYMI, read this fascinating New Yorker article about Pete Wells. (New York Times)

- Speaking of local eating, just a head's up that San Francisco Restaurant Week and Oakland Restaurant Week are coming up soon. SF's will take place January 18-29; Oakland's from January 19-29). Both will feature special multi-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus. If you're like me, you'll use this information to avoid going out to these places during this period. I'm not a big fan of Restaurant Week because it kind of reminds me of going out to eat on Valentine's Day, meaning expect crowds and long waits, tired servers and cooks, and ultimately, not always the best dining experience. But hey, there are often good deals to be had, sometimes at prices you'd normally not be able to afford.

- Grinchy as I am about Restaurant Week, I totally get it, restaurants need to do all they can do to survive. It's a hard business and even those that get lots of business and praise and good reviews have a helluva time staying afloat. Matt Semmelack and Mark Liberman's acclaimed San Francisco restaurant AQ plans to close this month. Is the restaurant bubble finally bursting? Yes, says writer Kevin Alexander, who's been following the state of the American restaurant industry for the past year. Alexander published his third and final piece on the topic. (Thrillist)

- There's a new Girl Scout cookie coming out in 2017! Actually, technically two. Both will be S'mores cookies, but which of the two your local Girl Scout hawks will depend on which commercial baker your local troop contracts with. One cookie is vegan, coated in chocolate; the other is an animal cracker-like cookie filled with marshmallow and chocolate. The S'mores Cookie is being made in honor of the Girl Scout's 100th anniversary of cookie sales. (Time)

- Our friend Marcia Gagliardi, aka the Tablehopper, normally puts out an annual "bore" rant in early January, where she lists 10 things she doesn’t want to see in restaurants in the new year. This year, she put out a list of 10 food photos she's sick of seeing on Instagram. Are you guilty of posting any of these 10? I am. (Tablehopper)

- The creator of the red Solo cup died last month. Robert Leo Hulseman died on December 21 at the age of 84. The next time you're at a party, remember to pour one out for him. (Huffington Post)

- Itadakimasu means "to receive, to get; to accept; to take" in Japanese, but you'll mostly hear the word right before someone tucks into their meal, to thank everyone and everything – from the plants, animals, farmers, hunters, and chefs– that are responsible for the food. But it goes beyond just saying the word and starting your meal. There's a right way to perform itadakimasu, involving subtle body language and enunciation. (Tofugu)

- A recent study shows that Japanese males are less interested in getting hammered than they used to be. Alcohol consumption in general has gone down, especially since its heyday in 1996, but the study shows that men in their 20s are abstaining from drinking. The reasons are not totally clear, but some think that the younger generation may be more health conscious than their elders. (Rocket News 24)

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