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Jonathan Estabrooks - These Miles - Release at The Drake Hotel

It’s a drizzling day, the train is packed with baseball fans off to see a Yankees Jays showdown and I’m headed to the Drake Hotel’s underground for a Juilliard graduates album event.

Jonathan Estabrook’s album These Miles is a fusion project of cover pieces by the likes of Edith Piaf to Simon and Garfunkel. It is officially released April 8th but tonight the Ottawa native is giving Toronto a pre-emptive taste.

Headed to coat check murmurs of sound check leak from next door.

To say Jonathan’s jazzy sound and the speak easy - esque underground of the Drake are a perfect Gatsby match is an overused modern analogy but correct in this case nonetheless.

I stay upstairs for a quick drink before the doors open. The rain has let up but the skies are still streaked grey. A vodka sour later I meet the line extending up the stairs waiting to get inside to hear the opera trained baritone.

I grab a few minutes preshow with Estabrooks. He as well as his band in charcoal suits, bebop playing over the sound system. Estabrooks engages me with notes on his busy schedule and his thoughts on success being an elusive idea when I mention his past performance at the Lincoln centre.

The stage is ready and within minutes the seemingly empty room’s cabaret style seating is filled.

The track progression from the soon to be released project is mimicked on stage.

Having the chance to listen to the album beforehand, the on stage Instrumentation thanks to a stellar band is identical to the recordings. Strings, horns the works done through only a guitar bass keyboard, drums and unapologetically Estabrooks’ voice.

A quiet but very interested crowd is greeted by Estabrooks.
“I’ve been dating my album for a year…feels like I climbed 3 pyramids to get here.”

Wonderful and calming there is a moment the mood breaks in an energetic moment as he heads into a Cyndi Lauper cover.

"More booze!" He chimes at the crowd. The demographic is a touch older but the moment of jest and warmth from this exclamation starts a roll of laughter in the audience that send happy shouts back for the rest of the show.

On the Street Where You Live is tucked into the set followed by opera. It’s this versatile and appreciative approach to multiple musical genres that shows wide spread taste, interest and a genuine love of music.

There’s a moment you could even believe he’s lip syncing as the voice is effortless in its body and boldness.

Though I’m standing for the both sets there is never a lull or a tedious turn. It is engaging and the audience clearly understands this. My sentimental heart sticks on Willie Nelson cover and the mash up of All These Things (Hymne à l’amour) to the point my dreaminess leads me to almost drink the candle fluid instead of my vodka. Yikes.

The perfectly paced collection goes into the sole original of the set and album which is co-written with his brother do you know his name. I think of the conversation I had with his kind eyed father during intermission. He told me about his four part harmony folk band playing Froggy Went A-courting from youth. It’s clear the love of music is engrained in the family.

An endearing address of thanks yous, Vaudeville like dance moves explode from him in the final minutes of his set.

Coming to a close with the standard Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home I’m brought back to those first murmurs of the undeniable in sound check i heard through the walls.

Filed under music hotel drake drake hotel live music album review toronto event review jonathan estabrooks opera jazz musical theatre album release these miles downtown toronto venue julliard baritone ottawa bar vodka sour vodka yankees

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Restaurant Review - Pre Open at Snakes and Lagers


Behind the Bar - Photo by Daniel Peragine

It’s really easy to get stuck in old habits. Same playlist, usual drink, regular haunt, typical invitees.

Call up, go out, bar hop, get fed, lather rinse repeat.

So when somewhere pops up that is doing different, fun and easy to adventure into you’ve got to perk up your ears.

There is a local cult following of Snakes and Lagers' sister cafe Snakes and Lattes. Both board-game bars, one beer, one coffee. Great reputation but then again sequels can be hard.


Snakes and Lagers - Photo by With Elyse

Bubbly going in invited for a pre open tasting before the grand opening. Pre opens are always exiting like being in on a secret or the punchline of some fabulous party joke.

Arriving abnormally early I was seated at the sturdy bar with a view of the gorgeous selection of taps and bottles.

The building emulates the nod in the name to snakes and ladders. A thin stretched room to the back stacked with additional seating on the top floor. High tables, booths and gothically vogue stone walls.

Introductions are made and we are launched into educated suggestions on everything from games to beer to munchables.

As a Stiegl girl (a leftover habit from time in Austria) I’m directed towards the Beau’s Lug Tread. Not overly hoppy, crisp and generally just refreshing.


Photo by Daniel Pergine

We dig into the nibbles which I’m told are a culmination of worldy pub fair meets street eats. The later clearly coming through as none of them get in the way of upcoming friendly game initiated competitive streaks.

Brussel sprouts in a skillet and kale chickpea salad in a mason jar, all rustically appetizing. Both difficult foods to get right - the sprouts and kale. Done wrong the feelings of a punished petulant child get stirred up but, done right it’s health infused bar snacks. Salty and decadent with beer but with a little more green than usual. Snakes and Lagers does them right. To be able to satisfy craving with a salad is a feat worth mentioning.

image Kale and Chickpea Salad, Brussel Sprout - Photo by Daniel Peragine

It’s true when they say all the servers as “Gurus” connect on a personal level. We start a game of Fandoodle (yes actually the name) and our lovely host stays for a few rounds to ensure the ball or rather dice is rolling smoothly.

Sliders and falafel join the table. Not a drop spilled and the gambling style game is full swing. The mix in of white beans for the falafel adds a creamy profile and combats happily with the pickled onion topping while the Mini Mac is the solution to every fiend in need of drive through answers to boozy questions.


Mini Mac Slider, Falafel - Photo by Daniel Peragine

Switching on to Time-line (staff recommended), a historical game to order events of everything from the introduction of the Euro to dear old dial up. It gets you properly attentively thinking and moves us into dessert with cocktails.

imageLemon Meringue Pie, Bourbon Sour, Fluffer Nutter and Lemon Meringue Pie - Photos by Daniel Pergaine and With Elyse

Again nuzzled in mason jars are the Lemon Meringue (I can never resist) and The Fluffer Nutter. I’m able to pop behind the bar to see the cheery men at work making me a egg white based Bourbon Sour that I’ve seen circulating the bar.

The slightly deconstructed delicious desserts are texture based and excellently portioned but the knockout is the cocktail deserving of a standing O with its frothy goodness.

Wrapping up I feel, unlike some nights, that I actually did something. A feeling of specialty of an event, out of the norm excitement to draw closer with strangers, colleagues and even the oldest of friends.

Snakes and Lagers is located at 488 College St in Downtown Toronto

Filed under restaurant review restaurant With Elyse review board games snakes and lagers snakes and lattes snakes and ladders foodie toronto downtown journalism writing writer canada beer austria stiegl lager grand opening preview pre open slider beanie bartender bartending cold weather what to do in toronto what to do where to go

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Restaurant Review - Delysées French Bakery


Delysées Entrance - Photo by Daniel Pergaine

Close your eyes and think of Paris.

Warm coffee, sweet baking smells, clean colors and the sound of Juliette Greco floating in. A sign something is a good idea isn’t always obvious but sometimes it is.

Sometimes it’s all in the name. In the case of Delysées literally my name is in the name. Coming in from the wretched cold to a chrome and white long stretched room highlighted with glass cases of every delicious fantasy you’ve ever had. The clientele is happily immersed but respectfully hushed to not disturb the natural elegance of the room as if it’s an opening at the Met.

imageJars and Macarons - Photos by Daniel Pergaine

Sitting down to taste through the menu all enhanced by the company of owner Fred Naggar who has settled into conversation with me. As charming as his young 4 month old bakery cafe, within minutes of arriving, the attention to detail, integrity and tradition is vividly apparent. The latte to start is from a grind always made to order. Light, velvety and quickly accompanied by the sound of croissants in batches of only 8 ready to emerge from the hot oven.

They are over 30% butter and made from carefully sourced imported ingredients. Pulling apart the countless layers of golden dough as welcoming as the first bite of the classic and chocolate versions. The affect is a weightlessness that lingers delicately underneath the next sips of your coffee.

imageSandwiches, Butter and Chocolate Croissants - Photos by Daniel Pergaine

The petite sandwiches are next. Just the length of a salt shaker their base is the fresh baked breads of airy baguettes and homey rye. A selection of 17 distinct classically manipulated combinations that make each bite layered and textural. Smokey red peppers with tempting feta and olives, ham with cucumber and the most seductive of bries.

The careful qualities of the thinness of each ingredient to ensure the sandwich remains as it was made is the higher approach that shows. Throughout the tasting little pauses to appreciate are interspersed with customers coming in speaking volumes as they bilingually chat with the gregarious Parisian owner. The shy excitement between myself, photographer and owner is palpable as we move onto the sweet section.


Pistachio, Praline, Passion Fruit, Chocolate, Raspberry Mouses - Photo by With Elyse

Crisp white flatware is laid down dotted with macarons and mouses in blushing watercolors and acrylic brights. We start at the soft sunshine colored passion fruit, a now favorite of mine perfumed, tart and hugged by bursting pomegranate seeds. The luscious freshness carries on to the raspberry, hinting memories of childhood summers spent outside. Time slows for each bite that turns into a moment of its own. The chocolate follow up is a rich feathery invitation to the cream and cherry inside and then finishing with nut selections of praline and pistachio. Both as unarguably silky as the others and both distinctly different in their buttery and savory personalities.


(Clockwise) Salted Caramel, Raspberry Lychee, Chocolate, Basil Lime - Photo by Daniel Pergaine

Finally are the macarons and my heart sings a little. Raspberry and lychee, chocolate, salted caramel and basil with lime. Looking at the lightly glossed tops of the buttony cookies it’s impossible for a dreamy sparkle not to wash over everything. The chocolate effortlessly centering around a seamless ganache, The salted caramel brightly evenly balanced, the raspberry lychee popping brushed a subtle ombré and the basil lime an unexpected herbal marriage. The first bite from a tender hardness to a soft resolved can only be compared to a first kiss. Unforgettable and excitingly simple.

The escapist romantic in me finishes the last few tastes with an encouraging sigh. A satisfaction melts over that has not been felt for ages.


Photo by Daniel Pergaine

Delysées is located at 780 King Street West in Downtown Toronto

Filed under review restaurant food foodanddrink foodie french paris met macaron toronto downtown restaurant review delysees With Elyse gastropost gastro French Cuisine french food coffee dessert pastries baking latte the city the met juliette greco music jounralism writing journalist

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Best of The Holiday Parties - 2013

Christmas has passed, 2014 is approaching and December is coming to a close. The month of relatives, presents, long lines, comfort food and the ever important holiday party.

While everybody throws them from your Aunt Linda to Mr. Hugh Hefner, throwing a great holiday party takes some skill so here are the top two parties of the 2013 season.

Windsor Arms Hotel Holiday Party

Contrast a Contemporary/Neo Gothic 20s built hotel with classic cars, swimsuit models, modern menu selections and a VIP guest list. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a proper party soundtrack, in this case DJ Fizza and RnB band fronted by Juno award winning Carlos Morgan, working Blackstreet and Michael Jackson.

Augusten Borroughs type high ceilings and a crowd worth watching, offset by Venao Swimwear’s light catching designs towering over. Old world glam on a new scale for the festive.



FERKNOT Holiday Affair

Everyone has a signature that marks who they are and if you’re a bash thrower it’s most likely a cocktail. FERKNOT's Mint Julep perfectly encapsulates their party persona, debonair, fresh, strong and vibrant. A Kennedy worthy location - The Ganzi - makes little touches such as beanie sales that benefit charity all the more charming.



Filed under ferknot holiday fashion style party parties event eventcoverage eventreview best of 2013 venao apparel venao swimear windsor arms hotel a list vip celeb ganzi italaian mint julep cocktail food and drink foodie gastro gastro post christmas party list best of hotel augusten boroughs hugh hefner

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I’ve teamed up with the fabulous people at La Coupe ORGNX Haircare to give away a basket FULL of their amazing products. Perfect timing to use their treats (which I’m addicted to) to get you ready for party season.

The Basket Includes
- Keratin Complex Shampoo & Conditioner
- Coconut and Macadamia Oil Shampoo & Conditioner
- Coconut and Macadamia Oil Intensive Repair Treatment
- Moroccan Argan Oil Complex Shampoo & Conditioner
- Moroccan Argan Oil Complex Leave-In Styling Creme
- Moroccan Argan Oil Complex Leave-In Styling Oil

Total value is $100!

Great for a personal pre-Xmas gift or to give to someone you love over the holidays.

There are four ways to enter.

1 - Regram through Instagram with #withelyse and #orgnxholiday
2 -Retweet through twitter with tag #withelyse #orgnxholiday
3 - Share through Facebook with #withelyse and #orgnxholiday
4 -Reblog through Tumblr with #withelyse

Each one equals one entry. Do all four for four entries and a better chance to win!


Filed under withelyse orgnxholiday orgnxhaircare haircare hair party season la coupe la coupe orgnx contest giveaway free holiday win enter to win beauty grooming fashion compeitition reblog to win freebie style styling argan keratin organic health salon tumblr contest

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ONE ON ONE with Lauren O’Connell

YouTube sweetheart and American Horror Story Soundtrack star, Lauren O,Connell talks covers, Coven and connecting with an on-line audience.


A lot of people know your music from your eerie rendition of House of The Rising Sun featured in the soundtrack of the new season of American Horror Story: Coven.

How did you get involved with the cult TV show? Were you inspired by the New Orleans storyline?

I actually recorded the cover almost two years ago, so it was a pleasant surprise when the folks from AHS got in touch this year. The song obviously suits the New Orleans setting and my recording has kind of an eerie vibe, so it ended up being a great fit.


Why do you think YouTube has worked so well as a platform for what you do? Is it harder or easier connecting with an audience separated by a web presence?

It’s definitely easier to connect with people via a web presence and that’s why it’s worked for me. It’s not the same connection as playing for a live crowd, of course, but the sheer breadth of it makes it easier for you and your ideal audience to find each other. There’s a lot of luck involved there, too.

Making VideoSongs and vlogs on YouTube pulls back the curtain a little bit on artists as working musicians. I think people appreciate that. It makes music seem a little less disposable and that goes a long way in the age of piracy and short attention spans.

What us the most important tool to take advantage of when creating an engaging live webcast?

"Engaging" is the key word there. I think it’s important to treat it like a live show as much as possible. The format takes some getting used to, but I do my best to take requests and respond to people in real time. If there are no surprising moments or audience participation, people might as well be watching a recording or listening to an album.


Recently you talked about the power and intention of covering a beloved song. Do you think covers are still the fastest way to connect with people or is it fighting an uphill battle?

Covers of well-known songs are definitely an effective way to reach new ears. It feels like an uphill battle sometimes because new listeners are going to include new detractors, no matter what you’re doing. Covers not only reach people who wouldn’t normally seek you out, but also tend to be more polarizing (for better or worse) because people have emotional histories with the songs. You just have to be okay with that and remember that if everyone likes what you’re doing, it’s probably not very interesting.

Filed under american horror story american horror story coven coven lauren oconnell new orleans youtube webcast advice house of the rising sun webcast advice quitters covers web presence vlog ideal audience working musician music interview With Elyse one on one soundtrack american horror story soundtrack

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Event Review - Premiere Celebrity Gift and Style Lounge at TIFF


The Toronto International Film Festival (or TIFF if you’ve opened any type of publication for the past month) is known for being the yearly Toronto hot spot for star watching even in the daytime, artistic luxury and if you’re very lucky - the lounges.Invite only VIP events to sample cutting edge brands, get pampered and mingle.

This year I was invited to the Premiere Celebrity Gift and Style Lounge.

Held over a course of three days, the lounge was hosted in the heart of TIFF madness at the stunning Ritz Hotel.

When I arrived, I was ushered into the suite by an attentive PR staff and a view that could make P Diddy’s bank account blush.


True to its name the event hosted an array of VIPs coming through including Canadian funny man Colin Mochrie, Matt Letscher of The Carrie Diaries, Academy Award Nominated Damien Bichir and the multi-talented Cory Lee to name a few.

As an invitee to the lounge, I was treated to styling, makeup, hair, massages from The Massage Lady as well as high-end gel manicures by Seaweed Bio Gel. All necessities to guests running off to a day full of busy events and red carpets or as a reprise for those in need of some downtime.

To keep everyone hydrated and delicious, We Bake in Heels and Barefoot Wine provided bubbly and cupcakes galore. Add in Awake Chocolate’s tasty caffeinated treats whose Dragon Den’s backer and supporter, Dave Chilton made an appearance and you have a content crowd.

Pampered and at ease there was a relaxed excitement in learning about all the companies showcasing.

Familiar loved brands like ORGNX Hair Care matched with companies presenting upcycled TIFF themed products like TOTEM Bags grounded an eclectic mix.

Skincare and hair demos from Pretend Tan, Ms Hair Extensions and Face Addiction kept the whole vibe very Hollywood in a quality way.

VENAO Swimwear, Ferknot, Moose Knuckles, Shoelery, SERENDRA, Fiori Fashion all showcasing clothing or accessories each representing individual styles to cater to a wide array of guests. Some poshly classic (Ferknot), some lavishly unique (Fiori), some exotically sensual (VENAO), some secretly beneficial (SERENDRA), it seems personality was the name of the design game.

However the niche standout of the day was Jarrell Guitars whose carefully crafted work of well balanced standout instruments and presence alone brought in high lister Tom Felton of the beloved Harry Potter series.

With so much to see, good spacing and great room flow, a change of lighting would help to capture these moments. Though understandably a challenge with such gorgeous wide span windows.

In the crazy days that make up TIFF, the mix of good company, variety, luxe delivery and style at The Premiere Celebrity Style and Gift Lounge is a definite destination next year for those who like to be deeply spoiled.

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Childhood Fantasies - Product Pull Food Find - Awake Chocolate

Company : Awake Chocolate

Background : Three friends meeting while working at Pepsi Co connected to create the only caffeine enriched chocolate bar

Claim to fame : After officially launching in 2012 Dragon, Dave Chilton of CBC’s Dragon’s Den invested in the caffeinated chocolate company


"Not recommended for children". That alone upgrades the image of your 5 year old self at the check out counter of bugging mum for a candy bar to a now adult who eats adult chocolate…like an adult…

Wonderfully quirky in their promotion approach with videos, photos and packaging in gorgeous warm, rich earthy colors plus a charming owl mascot peering out at you. 


Photo by Taylor Brockelsby 

I skipped my morning coffee for the sake of testing (brave ambition for someone who lives on an average of 6 espressos shots a day) Awake’s bite size piece. Not sleeping well and urges to crash were bringing me down prior to indulging, but 15 minutes later I felt alert and of course awake. The difference in energy level was really pleasantly surprising.

This is not mocha chocolate. Despite the Cup of Joe content, it tastes like regular milk chocolate. I personally think this is lovely since I’ve never been keen on mocha.

The caramel is like a  friends with benefits version of your run of the mill Caramilk. Silky filling plus your pick me up for the day.

This is your cravings and addictions bundled into one little package.


Photos by Taylor Brockelsby 

I look hopefully to the future for a dark version of these and maybe even latte inspired flavours (Green tea? Cinnamon Dolce?) to touch more on the coffee infusion.

A wonderfully smooth transformation of addiction on addiction to satisfy your adult needs and your childhood sweet tooth.

All Products Pulled are available at Awake Chocolate online

For more photos of the Products Pulled visit the With Elyse - Instagram @withelyse

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Dalliance Magazine - Resort Wear 2014

My piece on the Yves Saint Laurent Resort ‘14 Collection featured in the Resort Report article in the July issue of Dalliance Magazine


Filed under fashion style yves saint laurent saint laurent saint laurent paris paris france what to wear dalliance dalliance magazine article resort wear resort report clothing designer runway collection featured piece sheer sheer blouses leather rock n roll mick jagger daft punk magazine writing fashion journalism with elyse spread