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Orna's Blog

How I Gained 4 Pounds in 4 Days (NY Confessions)

We’re back from 7 nights in New York and Boston, and after a fantastic trip I’m happy to say there’s no place like home! I’m definitely a West Coast girl. Staying smack dab in the middle of Times Square did not a relaxing vacation make. But we didn’t go there to relax!

And what a trip to be staying “On Broadway!” (Those of you who knew me in my musical theater days will appreciate that.)


Orna and Sam in Times Square


I was sooo happy that I packed my Best Weight Watchers Travel Snacks when we were delayed for NINE hours. (You might have seen my #IHateDelta tweets)

Who needs stale pretzels when you have Cosomi Cookie-Crackers?

Cosomi Cracker and Coffee on Delta

Anthony Bordain’s Kitchen Confidential on my iPad Mini kept me from losing it completely! (Though I’m not sure I wanted to hear what really goes on in the kitchens of NYC just before dining in some of them. Scaaaary.)

We checked into The W Hotel at 3:45am (!), and were ecstatic that Hazel had attempted to erase our nightmare travel day with a gorgeous corner suite on the 55th floor. After numerous warnings about teeny-tiny NYC hotel rooms, we were stoked. (Can you say upgrade?!)

And so ensued a Four Day Eating Fiasco

You must know by now that I’m a bonafide foodie, and despite having a (mostly) healthy food blog, I’m obviously into baked goods, hence the name “OrnaBakes.” So I wasn’t about to miss this opportunity for trying good eats across NYC. It’s a good thing we walked for MILES each day. (Would you believe I forgot to take my FitBit Flex!!!)


Everyone asks me the same thing: What was your favorite food?

So here it is!


Eataly (sigh)

Wow. What an experience. I mean—there’s an entire Nutella Room!

(Check out my Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Nutella Sauce for the BEST dessert EVER!)

Nutella per Eataly


Inside Nutella Store


Seriously the best pizza ever to pass my lips—with fresh buffalo mozzarella that tasted like Italy.

Pizza at Eataly


And who knew that simple spaghetti in butter, olive oil, parmesan and pepper could taste so unbelievable!

Spaghetti at Eataly


And then of course I couldn’t miss fresh Hazelnut Gelatto. (My top 5 foods on earth)

Standing in line for Gelato


Fun to watching these friendly bakers effortlessly make foccaccia. (Not sure why there were three of them on this task. But it looks interesting!)

Making bread at Eataly


Sam was ecstatic to find his beloved GUS (Grown Up Soda) which is increasingly hard to find in LA. (Gelsons still carries it)

Sam with GUS


I was so overwhelmed by the shelves and shelves of magnificent Italian confections, that I didn’t even come away with a single one! (Plus I knew if I bought a bag of nougat, I would polish off the whole thing myself.)

Nougat Stand at Eataly


News Flash: Eataly is coming to Westfield Century City Mall (Los Angeles) in Spring 2017!


Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen

This adorable bakery reminded me of Charley’s Bakery in Cape Town.

Orna outside Amys Bread


We took this cutie’s advice and tried their famous Cinnamon Crispies, made from leftover croissant dough.

Amys Bread


O.M.Goodness! Crispy on the outside and perfectly doughy on the inside.

Cinnamon Crispies


And you must try the Low-Fat Applesauce Doughnuts. YUM!

Applesauce Doughnut


Sam said, can you make these? And I said, no! (Funny.)

Though I sure wish I could’ve stayed in town long enough to take bread-making classes at the one in Chelsea Market.


At Bouchon Bakery

I had a decadently delicious Cheese Danish that was like eating cheesecake for breakfast. (I’m afraid the ones at Starbucks will never be the same again.)

Eating Cheese Danish from Bouchon


Unfortunately, I only discovered my love for Macarons (thanks to Trader Joe’s) after our trip, so didn’t bother getting a famous Bouchon Macaron.

Snickerdoodles and Macarons at Bouchon


But we did take a giant Snickerdoodle to share at the Kinky Boots matinee.

Kinky Boots


WOW, what a show! Absolutely loved it. Billy Porter was SPECTACULAR!


You can’t visit NY without getting something from a street vendor!

We snacked on Warm Nuts (Sam’s fav) at Book of Mormon.

Book of Mormon


Hilarious, brilliant, uplifting!!! And since it takes place in Africa (where I’m from) it was even more poignant and just FUNNY! Must-see!!

I was reeealllly regretting making friends with the nice Australian lady next to me. (When they say profanity, they really mean profanity! LOL Don’t take your parents!) BTW – you get to take home the cool wine cups as a souvenir.

Next to Australian lady at Book of Mormon


And then I enjoyed a surprisingly fresh and delicious Falafel sandwich at 11pm. I might have to steal their trick of chopping up the falafel balls—much easier to eat and all evenly distributed.

Orna eating a Falafel


Donna Bell’s Bake Shop

The next day, we passed up famous Magnolia Bakery (from Sex & The City) and instead went with the concierge’s suggestion of this popular bakery, owned by actress Pauley Perrette and her two best friends, serving her mom Donna Bell’s mouthwatering southern recipes.

Donna Bells Bake Shop


Co-owner, Darren, made each scone and biscuit sound better than the next, so we walked out of there with 2.6 pounds of pastries! (Yes, I weighed them on the bathroom scale. Why on earth DO they have a bathroom scale anyway?! It must’ve been a single man’s decision! No woman—or married man—would be that dumb!)

Pastries from Donna Bells


Now that’s a Pastry Party!

I did cut them up into quarters so we could have a taste of everything and then just eat our faves. Hands down the best, most moist and flavorful scones I’ve ever had—and I am a serious scone girl. (Not the usual dry, hockey-puck like scones from Starbucks)


Breakfast: (huge) banana scone

Lunch: (huge) cheddar biscuit


Dinner at Mario Batali’s Babbo—after months of asking friends, reading reviews, and finally deciding which restaurants to go to—was sadly very disappointing.

Orna and Barbie at Babbo

Orna and Barbie Rubin at Babbo

It was wonderful reconnecting with my girlfriend, Barbie, but we were all shocked at the disrespectful and snooty (for lack of a better word) service that the food just couldn’t make up for. I won’t post a bad review on Yelp, but I will be writing Mr. Batali a letter because I doubt that’s the kind of customer service he would be proud of.



Right across from super-cool Chelsea Market (where I was ecstatic to find my beloved Cote D’or Bouchees) was the genius (and slightly intimidating) Iron Chef’s hip-chique Morimoto.

Now this one lived up to my high expectations. Way cool vibe and outstanding food. (Thanks Darryl Ballin for sending us there!) I highly recommend it for your next NY trip.


Look at those gorgeous scallops.


Scallops at Morimoto


The “Iron Chef” Chicken Noodle Soup reminded me of my favorite comfort food. (Yes, I’m totally in love with Cup Noodles. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.)

Iron Chef Noodle Soup


But my Costco Cups cost 50 cents and this one was a whopping $15! (Maybe because we don’t usually have a fancy waiter serving our ramen noodles. And then of course there’s the depth of flavor, house-made noodles, and all that jazz!)

Waiter serving Ramen Soup


I had already eaten half the soup when I remembered that Sam wouldn’t be eating much fish. (Oops, sorry.)


So I graciously agreed to go with him after to get a slice. You won’t believe me when I tell you that I had one too!

Rays Pizza

BTW Ray’s Pizza Rocks!


Irony: Convincing your hubby you should go for a light Asian meal instead of heavy Italian or steak—and then going for a slice of pizza after the light Asian meal.

And that’s what pushed me over the edge!

Plus all the pastries for lunch and dinner—it’s no wonder the scale was up 4.5 pounds in four days! (I know, I know… some of it was the sodium in the verrrrry salty soup!)


So, as you can see, I probably ingested more carbs in four days than I do in 4 months. And the only vegetation I came close to was the carrot I fed to Tickles the horse, and the bag of Spinach & Kale Chips. (I can’t believe that despite the high fat content, I still fell for the “spinach” and “kale” buzzwords!)

Giving Tickles the Horse a Carrot


It was wonderfully romantic taking a carriage ride through Central Park, and our charming Irish driver, Steven, took this amazing pic of us!

Sam and Orna on Carriage


Then off to Boston

This was the First Berklee College of Music Alumni Reunion ever, and though Sam and I went there at different times, it was pretty awesome to be able to attend a reunion together. (Since I’m from South Africa and he’s from Canada, we’ve missed all other reunions.)

Next time please remind me to do the food-frenzy part of the trip after the reunion part!!

Berklee Alumni Reunion

Marnie Schafer, Harvey Mason, Neil Stubenhaus, Sam Purkin, Orna Purkin, Jonathan Cullen, Leanne Summers


Fun hang with our friends Neil Stubenhaus (incredible bassist) and John J.R. Robinson (most recorded drummer)—two of the celeb alums brought back to play the show at the BPC (Berklee Performance Centre).

In elevator with JR and Neil

John J.R. Robinson, Orna Purkin, Neil Stubenhaus, Sam Purkin

A highlight of the show was seeing funky bassist Abraham Laboriel Sr. play with his talented sons, Abe Laboriel Jr. (drummer) and Mateo Laboriel (composer/producer). I felt like I got a sneak peak of them making music together in their living room when they were growing up. You could tell that it was a treat for dad Laboriel too, who was openly emotional. That man just exudes spirituality and goodness.

“Music is choosing to love each other with our instruments”   Abraham Laboriel Sr.

Another highlight was when Abraham joined impressive trio, Los Rumberos de Boston on stage for the grand finale! (Watch out for these boys!)

Abraham Laboriel Sr. with Los Rumberos de Boston

Luckily, Boston was about hanging out with old friends—not about eating—so I think I already started getting rid of a bit of the “excess baggage” before getting home!

Though I did of course manage to squeeze in a visit to J.P Licks where they had the exact same Oatmeal Yogurt I used to get 20 years ago! And Sam had to go to Stevie’s Pizza which was completely revamped and much better than the drunken slices I remember getting in college. And then of course, dinner at Legal Seafood. Good times.

The Four Plus Pounds (and why they didn’t totally freak me out)

When I travel, I believe in enjoying the local cuisine and experiencing everything. I don’t for one second regret a single thing I ate.

Despite how ridiculously good the Coconut Custard Slice from Donna Bell’s was, I just had two (big. okay, very big!) bites and threw the rest away. (That’s something the old me would never have done!)

Two bites out of Coconut Custard Pie


I did NOT give in to the all-or-nothing thinking like I used to. I didn’t just throw in the towel and say “I’ll start fresh when I get back.” I ate the things I really wanted and didn’t eat anything that wasn’t totally “worthy.” (My #1 motto at all times!)

The day after I got back I tried on my pink pants (my one non-stretch pair of pants that do not lie!)—and you know, they really weren’t that tight. Nothing that a few days back in my routine and a few sessions of Pilates couldn’t fix!

Most importantly I didn’t beat up on myself for gaining a few pounds, because I enjoyed every minute and every bite!


I hope you enjoyed reading all about it.





More Cool Pics

Only in NYC! (Note Elvis on the right)

Girls in Bikinis


We can never find anything with our daughter’s name (Aja), so this hand-painted Frozen poster was an awesome find!

Man Making Aja Frozen Poster


We were all wondering what on earth this monstrosity was going to be… (perhaps it’s completed by now?)

Dinosaur with Flowers


Love the Citibikes!



Fifteen-year-old Kelly from Arizona was doing Scorpions all over New York.

Scorpion in Central Park


Peeps eating lunch and watching the cars go by (at The High Line)

The High Line


We took two trains to get to our friend, Neil’s house on Long Island (Good thing he was with us to navigate the crowds or it would’ve taken us Californians two hours instead of one!)

Orna with Neil Gillis


Outside Radio City Music Hall where Sam opened for Natalie Cole 23 years ago with uber-talented Saxophonist Warren Hill!

Orna and Sam at Radio City Music Hall


We kept eyeing out these Mini Cupcakes from Baked By Melissa—right across from our hotel. I can’t believe that we were just too full on the last day to even try one!

Mini Cupcake Bites


Now this is Serious Juicing! (Maybe just taking the pic would get me some veggie-credit?)

Juice Truck


Sam is obsessed with Emack & Bolios in Boston. (Cute. But since this is my post I had to demote this to the “Other Pics” section.)

Sam at Emack and Bolios

Join my Bulka Banter Group on Facebook.

13 Responses

  1. What a fabulous post, with so many great photos. A picture tells a thousand words!This captured the essence.

  2. Miss Orna what a great post on one of my favorite cities! NYC! The only thing different next time you go is TO TAKE ME WITH YOU!!! 🙂 NYC, broadway musicals and Eating! What could be better? And gaining a few pounds is mandatory dahling! When in Rome, right? On a side note, OMG the Coconut Custard Slice from Donna Bell’s looks divine! Thanks for sharing your culinary delights! Kiss Kiss

  3. I totally agree with you Orna. The way i stay on track is I usually plan ahead by losing 3-5 lbs before going on vacation or when a holiday (xmas,thanksgiving…) is approaching. That way, I can enjoy my vacation (or holiday) without feeling guilty afterwards. Like you, I only have the things I cannot get at home, I don’t have seconds, and I drink lots of water. Congrats Orna on staying focused! 🙂

    1. Thanks Victoria. Next time I’ll do better at the water drinking! Both of us are VERY bad at that and one night we realized all we had all day was one bottle of water between us! Bad, bad, bad! Plus my daily Starrrrrbucks, of course. 😉

  4. Lovely post! Looks like you both had a lot of much deserved fun and time off together. I will definitely be stopping at some of the places you pointed out in this post! They look amazing! Your site looks awesome too!

    1. Thanks Jon! You would definitely love Morimoto! And the bakeries. If you like coconut make sure you have room for the Coconut Custard – best dessert EVER.

  5. Hi Orna
    I loved your blog it’s the first one of yours I have read.
    I’ve been to NYC a couple of times but really enjoyed it through your eyes (and mouth!!), will definitely try out some of your suggestions next time.
    BTW you look awesome, just gorgeous.

    1. I can’t believe you’ve never tried Donna Bell’s! It’s outrageous! Let me what you think. Didn’t get to ride the citibikes 🙁 Next time for sure!

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