Posts tagged toronto

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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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Show Review : Devah Quartet EP Release at The Tattoo Rock Parlour

Photo by Diego Guijarro

On a Friday night in the city, for live show options you can get lost in a sea of genres. Rock, alt, dance, trance, rap, folk, country on and on but rarely does the opportunity come to go see a modern string quartet whose members have backed the likes of Kanye West, Feist and Peter Gabriel.

Comprised of Emily Hau - electric violin, Sharon Lee - electric violin 5 string hybrid, Moira Burke - electric violin 5 string hybrid and Liza McLellan - cellist and song writer, the foursome plus add on drummer
Mack Longpre released their debut EP last night at The Tattoo Rock Parlour in Toronto. The San Jose recorded EP was funded through a Kickstarter Campaign.

From just moments into sound check each member’s comfort and command on their instrument is obvious but could this keep a Friday night crowds attention?

Listeners filed in eagerly watching albeit a little intimidated. The unexpectedness in the genre and pure power in their stage presence had the crowd captivated but keeping to the back corners of the room. 


Gritty, melancholic and cinematic. Cycling through songs both on and off the EP, moving excitedly around the stage, each trading off the spotlight position.

Not to have their clothes outdone by the music the four girls were clad in ripped corseted Nordic punk attire and wonderfully edged shoes. Mismatched but perfectly placed within their sound.

The seriousness of the strings were cut with disco beats and raunchy feminism. Although entertaining, wishes for unexpectedly arranged covers, considering their resume working with large artists, were left unanswered.

Winding down the 45 minutes that flew by, leaving stage the group was thrown back in by anxious shouts of encore from the crowd.

Maybe Friday night isn’t usually filled with female Gregorian chant type vocals and rock string arrangements but making your way to see Devah Quartet should definitely find its way to your night life to do list.

Devah Quartet Upcoming Dates:

The Boathouse: Kitchener - July 5th
Corktown Pub: Hamilton - July 12th
Fort Erie: Sessions on the River Showcase - July 20th
Inter-Provincial Music Camp: Camp ROCK special guests: Aug 20-23
Buskerfest: Toronto - Aug 23rd and 24th
Music on The Verandah Music Festival: Mississauga - Aug 30th

The evening’s performance was filmed by The Crew (Taylor Brockelsby, Chris Greef, Blake Hannahson, Diego Guijarro, Adam Griffiths),

Filed under devah devah quartet string quartet strings cello violin electric cello electric violin diego guijarro adam griffiths taylor brockelsby chris greef blake hannahson tattoo rock parlour toronto kanye west feist arcade fire los angeles rock alternative show review show reviews live ep release san jose peter gabriel

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The Seagull Love Review

My article from Issue048 of The Seagull Love Review (TSLR)
Originally published April 6th, 2013 selling out in first run at Ammex Stadium, Brighton, UK

Purchase Online 

Filed under brighton the seagul love review football footy soccer seagulls albion hove tslr uk canada 048 review toronto

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The Wood Brothers Give Toronto a Taste of The Southern Rockies

Originally Published by

Martyr Magazine - July 14 2012

“I’m having the best beer of my life. I don’t know what it is but I’m moving to Canada.”

Though this mid show epiphany probably won’t result in seeing the mixed roots siblings holed up somewhere in the Toronto anytime soon, it’s safe to say The Wood Brothers are welcome on Canadian soil anytime.

Originally growing up in Boulder, Colorado, the Wood Brothers, Oliver and Chris, came to Toronto’s Hugh’s Room, June 25 to support World Literacy Canada’s Satya Concert Series.

Hosted by musician turned Member of Parliament, Andrew Cash the event brought together dedicated musicians and their followers as a fundraiser to support the World Literacy foundation.

Taking the stage after opener Chris Assaad, the brothers and percussionist Jano Rix launched into covers and traditional pieces featured on their new live album, Volume One: Sky High to Wood Brother’s staples such as “Where My Baby Might Be.”

With the crowd warmed up, the two brothers hit a very personal note with the introduction to “Lovin’ Arms”. “This was written about our mum”. No stranger to how wonderfully poignant, vague and heartbreaking this song can be, as a regular on my playlists, even I felt a whole new level of intense warmth when hearing it live.

With percussive guitar and upright bass combined with mashed up rhythm, their sound comes across as if a hootenanny side stepped into a jazz club that got high jacked by a pots and pan blues band.

This genre-crossing is really what makes up The Wood Brothers live show and what they claim makes up Americana musical culture.

“To have all those things from music that we can draw from with our own experience and try to make new combinations,” said Oliver just after eating a post show dinner above the venue.

“It’s fun to go back to the roots of things and then go back even farther and really see where things come from. Then you can add another level of your understanding of the general concept of Americana which has such a vast foundation”

The Wood Brothers jumped from one genre to the next but never losing their crowd with diehard fans scattered throughout the set, enthusiastically singing along to “Postcards From Hell.”

Although there’s no blood relation between the brothers and Jano Rix the percussionist’s sentimental placement in the group whether on drums or vocals was undeniably cohesive.

A standing ovation to the end their set, they invited Chris Assaad and Andrew Cash on stage for their encore. Add another standing ovation and the night finally came to a close.

Looking at The Wood Brothers reaction to Canadian breweries, the crowd’s reaction to the band and the fact this has been only part of a handful of gigs they have done in the Great White North, one can clearly see there’s enough pull to bring these wandering organic brothers back north.

Filed under the wood brothers hugh's room hughs room toronto rockies martyr magazine world literacy elyse simpson boulder colorado june 25 andrew cash chris assad jano rix oliver wood chris wood lovin arms americana dinner talk one on one volume one sky high where my baby might be postcards from hell standing ovation canadian breweries beer great white north