The Best of Andy Rooney

While I don't have an exact number, I estimate from sort of counting them in the telephone book that there are about 24,000 restaurants in New York City. I've eaten in several hundred of them, and the good ones outnumber the fair or poor ones. The best restaurants go on and on and get better year after year; the bad ones don't last a year. There are a few good restaurants in every city in the United States but there are hundreds of them in New York.

Eating out is a popular hobby with New Yorkers. I know this because every Wednesday in the New York Times, they devote an entire section to food and in it they often review restaurants. Restaurants are close together and especially easy to get to in Manhattan, where there's one around every corner. If you don't like one place, there's another right across the street.

It would be wrong to list the restaurants I like best because there are others just as good that I haven't visited. I can name one of the best there ever was because Toots Shor's great restaurant has gone out of business. During the '40s and '50s, I must have eaten there hundreds of times.

My father traveled a lot on business, but when he came home, he'd take us out for dinner at Keeler's. Albany was lucky to have Keeler's because it was one of the great restaurants in the world. I don't know how it happened in Albany. I'd never eaten scallops before I had them at Keeler's, and when we went back to Keeler's I always ordered scallops.

Keeler's had great bread and rolls, too, and that's where I first realized that the best restaurants usually have the best bread. The bread they serve usually provides a clue to what the rest of the meal will be like.

(Keeler's closed many years ago, and Albany is lucky that an old school friend of mine now operates "Jack's," a good restaurant near where Keeler's used to be.)

I think America has the worst bread in the world, even though some restaurants serve good bread. The average loaf of bread sold in a supermarket wrapped in plastic is enough to put anyone off bread for life. I'll bet a large percentage of the bread sold in the U.S. is packaged, commercial white bread. Packaged bread can stay on the shelf for days because of all the preservatives. The best thing you can say for supermarket bread is that it fits into the toaster. It's soft as a marshmallow, too, if that appeals to you.

I know I eat less bread here than when I go to Paris. It's easy to get good bread in France. I've eaten bread in England, France, Germany and Russia, and it's all better than ours. I've made bread myself and it's been pretty good, but breadmaking is hard and takes a lot of time. I make it from scratch and I don't use a bread machine.

I wish I knew which countries eat the most bread. I might go sample their wares. I wonder if any of the travel agencies offer a Bread Tour of World.

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