I had the pleasure of visiting one of my best friends in New York during the Holidays this past December.  I had a wonderful time and of course, ate non-stop at some of the best restaurants.  Here are my top recommendations if you find yourself in the Big Apple for drinks, brunch, and dinner!

Pulino’s – http://www.pulinosny.com/
Great ambiance, long wait (but well worth it).  We started with a fantastic eggplant dip, shared a simple but delicious arugula salad and the most glorious thin crust burrata pizza.  Yum!  They also had a great wine list and a large selection of trendy bourbons.

DBGB – http://www.danielnyc.com/dbgb.html
One of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in the Bowery – absolutely fantastic!  This has to be one of my favorite places I’ve been to in 2011.  Started with a huge selection of East and West Coast Oysters, a delicious butternut squash soup, the chop-chop salad and a very decadent roasted duck with potato macaire, braised swiss chard and glazed orange with bigarade sauce.  Between the very extensive and impressive list of wines and beers and the fantastic service, we were extremely pleased.  Make a reservation ahead of time (they seated us right away), and make sure to come early for a creative drink from their mixologist.

Bar Boulud – http://www.danielnyc.com/barboulud.html
Bar Boulud is another one of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants; this one located on the upper east side across from the Lincoln Center.  This dinner was quite a treat as it was for my friend’s company holiday party for a prestigious auction house.  We had a dedicated private room and started with delicious passed hors d’ oeuvres (mini croque monsieur sandwich bite, pate on a crisp, a pork springroll, and so on) and then sat down for an amazing three course dinner.

Cafe Cluny – http://www.cafecluny.com/
What a fantastic brunch place located right in the heart of the West Village (amazing shopping nearby).  With waiters clad in Saint James shirts, and delicious mimosas, you can’t go wrong with this trendy brunch spot.  I would recommend the eggs benedict or grilled shrimp salad.  Be sure to stroll the area towards soho for the finest shopping experience.

The Bowery Hotel – http://theboweryhotel.com/
I stopped off at the Bowery Hotel to meet friends for cocktails as soon as my taxi pulled in from JFK.  After a long ride in the cab from the airport, it was the perfect mix of trendy chic and “OMG.. I’m finally here!”  Immediately before walking in to the hotel, Stellan Skarsgaard was standing outside which set the tone for my experience in NYC.  With the lounge covered entirely in sofas, gorgeous ornate rugs and dim lighting, it creates the perfect ambiance for a nice evening cocktail.

Birreria at Eataly – http://eatalyny.com/
Located right in the Flatiron District this place is a foodie’s mecca!  Part market, part collection of restaurants, the space is divided in types of food – both for purchase to take home as well as to order and eat there.  With a meat and cheese section, seafood selection, pasta and pork, and meat section, you can imagine we were overwhelmed with what to choose.  We settled on venturing up to the top floor (a covered rooftop patio with cask brewed beers) that had a variety of everything offered in the floors below us.  Still entirely overwhelmed, we decided on multiple small bites and each had a taste of the in-house brew selections.  This was one of my favorite places that I stumbled upon and am crossing my fingers that they open one up in San Francisco immediately!  If you’re a fan of the Ferry Building, going to Eataly is a must!

Freeman’s – http://freemansrestaurant.com/
Cocktail Menu: http://freemansrestaurant.com/Freemans_cocktails.pdf
Hands down – the coolest spot I went to!  Full of celebrities ( ehh hem, Edward Norton), a menu complete with comfort food treats (categorized there as Simple, Rustic Early American food) such as mac ‘n cheese, pot roasts, steaks and crab cakes.  And of course, we can’t forget about the most delicious mixology inspired cocktails: I didn’t want to leave.  What made this place so great was the vibe within (although the host was quite snooty) – either make a reservation by calling weeks in advance or head straight to the bar in the back and fight someone off for a spot to sit.  You can find Freeman’s at the end of Freeman Alley with adorable low wattage italian bistro string lighting.

Joe Dough – http://chefjoedough.com/

Want a quick sandwich?  Stop at Chef Joe Doe’s new stop “Joe Dough”.  Before taking off on an adventure to the Guggenheim, I had the most ridiculous Cubano sandwich with swiss, roast pork, shoulder bacon, and pickles.  Don’t stop here if you have a dinner reservation that night!