Tom And Elizabeth
What part of town do you live in?
How long have you lived in the area? And where are you originally from?
Elizabeth: Since 1990. We got married in ’92 and bought this house in ’95. I was born and reared in Coral Gables, Florida.
Tom: I’m from Waterloo, Iowa. I came down to University of Miami on a football scholarship.
How did the two of you meet?
Elizabeth: Through mutual friends…and wine.
Tom: I got interested in wine when I was playing football. Don Strock and I were roommates. He would only drink beer, but he loved to cook Steak Diane and that required a bottle of wine. He used part to cook, and I would drink what was left – mainly because there was no beer left after he drank it all. We’d be in major cities every other weekend and we had the wherewithal to go find restaurants and seek out the best wine. That led me to start a wine newsletter. I knew that Elizabeth had a journalistic background so I called for help. That’s when we began to collaborate.
Do you still collaborate?
Yes. We ran Wine News for 26 years and were rewarded with a number of James Beard awards for journalism. The market was changing and we wanted to exit on a high note, and we did. Tom studied graphic arts in college and had integrated his photography into our publishing business. After retiring the magazine in 2011, Tom started doing photography from a fine art perspective. And I started consulting in the wine business, the luxury foods, travel and real estate.
Tom – What do you look for when taking photographs?
Vibrant color. Much of my work is about reflection and how light and water play off each other. I like to go out early in the morning or very late in the day when the sun is at a really good angle. I say photography is based on three things: lighting, location and luck. I’m looking to capture great sunrises, wildlife, or the reflections in the water – like a boat hull or trees near the water. I call Matheson Hammock my office.
Tom – What stands out from your time playing professional football?
Don Shula, he was such a strong personality. We’d always have a meeting before going out to practice. He had all the players sit by position. So when he walked into the room, he’d kind of look around and take attendance. And I remember, he would always look at you and you’d look away because he was a scary dude. I recently mentioned this to Larry Csonka, and he said ‘It took me two years to stare him back in the eye.’
I was the seventh round draft pick, and was like ‘Oh my God, I’m going to a team that just went undefeated, so they really don’t need anybody.’ They brought in 25-30 rookies and ended up keeping only four of us. I was lucky to be there and going to the Superbowl and being part of that. The guys from ’72 and ’73 are really an exceptional group and we’re still very close.
When I think of running a wine magazine, the first idea that comes into my mind is it’s a brilliant idea for getting invited to parties. Do any stand out?
Tom: Yup! That was it! The number one was probably dinner with the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild at the French embassy in Washington DC with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It was incredible because you’re meeting a lot of dynamic personalities as well as eating and drinking like a king. In that world, the wine maker is the celebrity and the celebrities are wine groupies.
Elizabeth: The wine business was good to us and we were involved in different aspects of wine as a vehicle to make the planet a better place to live. Everything from being involved in Make a Wish Foundation through Grace Family Vineyards to helping a couple of the major wine fundraising events here in town. We used wine to do good and we continue to connect those dots in the philanthropic world, getting wineries to donate, for instance, at Tropical Audubon Society, the winemaker dinners we host there twice a year are sponsored by Republic National Distributing Company and the funds that are raised go directly into conservation education. So wine has been such a wonderful vehicle for us to do a lot of exploring of the world, but also to do a lot of good.
Elizabeth, you’ve been on the board of the Tropical Audubon Society for many years. How did you get involved and why is it important to you?
I always wanted to be involved there. I’m an environmentalist from the standpoint of growing up in South Florida. My parents plugged me into the Everglades and the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay and really nurtured in me a deep appreciation of nature and our natural resources. When we sidelined the magazine, it was right around the same time when my mom died. I was looking for a place to memorialize her and she was a bird lover. I thought the Tropical Audubon Society would be a nice place to have a Mother’s Day memorial. The director led my mom’s friends and our friends on a nature walk. When we got to the back of the property, we saw their old chickee hut had been completely blown out. The director said, they were so embarrassed, but had no funds to repair it. A neighbor of ours, who was a member, piped up and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We will have concerts here next winter, Elizabeth will organize it and I will get the bands.’ And sure enough, in January of 2010 we launched the Conservation Concert Series and raised plenty of money to rebuild and then some. I joined the board because it’s a local conservation organization that is truly the voice of conservation for South Florida. We love birds, but it’s really the advocacy of natural habitat and natural resources that drive the mission.
How often do you come to the Pinecrest farmer’s market?
Elizabeth: The Pinecrest Farmer’s market is our religion on Sunday. We love to commune with nature. We love to commune with farmers. We love to be outdoors. I was one of the folks who helped Elizabeth Gardner Adams launch the farmer’s market at Gardeners Market – which was the genesis for the Pinecrest farmer’s market.
What is your ritual when you get to the market?
We start on your end and make sure we get a loaf of bread from Zak before it sells out. Then, we hit you. And, then we might run way down to Laura to get some of her eggs if Margie is not there.
What are your favorites from our stand?
We love to have your Choquette avocados. They are manna from heaven. We love your Goldfinger bananas and your Lychees. They are luscious. But really, your Choquettes may be the best in the entire continent. They’re magic!
What do you think our market is missing?
A few more farmers would be really a luxury. I know that it’s harder for small farmers to come because they have to farm.
What are your favorite local restaurants and what do you like to order?
Tom: Two Chefs in Pinecrest is our numero uno. We brought so many wine makers from around the world to Two Chefs for winemaker lunches and dinners. They have all been blown away by the caliber of the cuisine in this little strip mall spot. Jan Jorgensen is Danish and classically trained and understands wine so much better than many of the younger chefs whose bold flavors really compete with wine. Try the fillet or pork chop – they are fabulous.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
We love going out to Key Biscayne to Salt. It’s a hole in the wall at a bar called Wetlab, at Rosenstiel (Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) About once a month, on Friday nights, they have a band there called Tall Boy. If you get really lucky, the moon’s coming up over the channel, you’re right on Virginia Key in between Key Biscayne and Virginia Key. There’s marine biology students there, professors and locals. And it is probably the best kept secret in town in terms of a happy hour with really high quality food.
Where would you go for a special occasion?
Palme d’Or. Tom designed their logo back in the day. We had our offices at the Biltmore in the nineties and it was a wild time. We helped them found the cellar club and we helped them found a wine festival. Their 8-course tasting menu, paired with wines is a worthy splurge.
What’s a good rainy day activity?
Scrabble, Jeopardy, crossword puzzles… We’re both wordsmiths.
Where’s the most romantic spot in Miami?
We like to take a bottle of wine, tuck it into a picnic basket and go out to Matheson Hammock as the sun goes down. It’s just beautiful and there’s usually no one there at the end of the day. It’s kind of like our private little happy hour.
What community groups or philanthropic groups do you participate in that you might like to promote or share?
Elizabeth: The Tropical Audubon Society. Also, Slow Food Miami is near and dear to my heart. The Whitman Woods Project is my life. It is a conservation project in Laurel Springs, NJ where Walt Whitman spent his twilight years and did a great deal of writing. We’re attempting to convert 3.75 acres of land and conservation in his name and bring nature, art, science, and poetry into one place as a gathering spot for the communities.
Also, The Miami Dolphins Foundation. They focus on Health and Education and ‘leveling the playing field through the power of teamwork to inspire a healthier, more educated and united South Florida community.’
Is there a question you would like to ask the LNBs?
When will the choquettes be ready? And, have you made cocktails with your lychees and if so, what alcohol do you suggest?
(A+W) December, if we’re lucky for the choquettes. And, try an agricole rhum blended with frozen lychees. One of our favorites, that you can find locally, is Clemente. Agricole rums (or rhums) are made from the sugar cane, not the byproduct molasses. You can taste the grassy notes of the cane and they are more interesting than regular rum. We’ve been thinking about distilling our own.
Is there a challenge or words of advice that you would like to pose to the community?
I would ask the community to support conservation of South Florida’s natural resources – only if they enjoy drinking water every day.
And, I would suggest that people who want to get involved in volunteering find a place that is very close to them in geographic proximity. Oftentimes, we have the best intentions but just don’t have the way to make time for it. Find a place that’s close to you and it will be much easier.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We are so thrilled to have you join us at the Tropical Audubon Society tomorrow June 1st. You have no idea how happy it makes me to have the opportunity to engage with LNB and bring you to Tropical Audubon and connect all the dots. It’s just such an organic experience. Thank you for doing so much for our community.