Lee del Real grew up in Arcadia near Camelback Mountain. This probably explains her deep love of hiking and "all sorts of outdoor things" -- canoeing, camping, skiing and "just exploring this beautiful state." She's also a forager and has picked wild raspberries on the Mogollian Rim.
She's a relatively new hospitality industry professional. After business school at ASU and working for a property management company, she wanted to figure out how to get out of the office and find a way to free up her mornings for more hiking time.
Her boyfriend, Aaron Chamberlin, is a chef and owns St. Francis. She's recently started working the front of the house and loves it. We got to meet her briefly during Chef Chamberlin's Summer cooking class at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and she had some stellar restaurant suggestions for the guests. We wanted to pick her brain a bit more. So, we asked her to share her perfect food day.
Here it is:
Breakfast: There are two things I must have right when I wake up. One is cup of Cartel Coffee Lab coffee, brewed on my 8 cup Chemex. The other is something chock full of vitamins and minerals with just the perfect balance of protein and complex carbs. They keep telling me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I have listened. Breakfast is like a science experiment in my house, I even go as far as drinking raw Spirulina. I just got a Breville juicer a couple months ago and I have not since gone a day without juicing. So this perfect morning it is going to be my favorite juice blend of of kale, spinach, orange, celery, ginger and lemon. This green monster provides a rush of sustained energy all day. You juicing skeptics out there have got to try it. All those juicers out there know just what I am talking about, it is addicting. All this juice and spirulina, and I am off to my morning hike.
Lunch: I was debating whether or not to include St. Francis as one of my favorite spots to eat. I do admit that I have particularly close ties to this restaurant. Some might say I am partial to St. Francis because of this. But in all honesty, I really can't get enough of this place. To leave St. Francis out of my perfect food day would only be a lie unto myself. I love St. Francis, I would eat there every day. Even on my days off I want to eat there. I want to have my birthday there, Thanksgiving there, and happy hour there. So on my perfect food day I am going to take a visit to my beloved St. Francis. My favorite thing of the moment is their kale and brussels sprouts salad with sunflower seeds, alfalfa sprouts, croutons, parmesan and a whipped honey zinfandel dressing. This thing is a beast, it is totally filling. Every bite is as perfect as the last. Even though I am full I am still going to have a roasted salmon "superfood" with quinoa, avocado, soy beans, radish and sweet chile vinaigrette. So light and healthy, this is my favorite salmon dish around. Mmmmm I crave it every time I see it pass me by on a Friday night.
Snack: Working in the restaurant industry you tend to eat dinner later than most. So an afternoon snack is the perfect bridge between lunch and dinner. Today I am going to snack on what's in my pantry. I love, love, love pickles and sauerkraut. I can remember hiding out behind my door with a jar of polish gherkins that my mom had just bought and eating the entire thing from start to finish. Although I have come a long way from those bright little green pickles, I'm pretty sure I could still eat a jar of pickles in a day. That's why I had to quickly learn how to make these things on my own. I need to keep a steady stock of these delights in my pantry. Every season I spend a day in the kitchen to capture the best of what's available and either pickle it or ferment it. From celery pickled in rice wine vinegar, mirin, ginger, juniper berries, pepin pepper, black peppercorns, bay leaves; to fennel pickled in champagne vinegar with red onion, shallot, purple peppers and spices. Every winter I love make loads of sauerkraut with green and red cabbage. I let it ferment in a cool room for about six weeks, just long enough to make it super acidic and crunchy. I eat it raw not only because it tastes great, but because of the incredible amounts of good bacteria, enzymes and phytochemicals -- always looking for that nutrition.
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Dinner: Before dinner I am going to stop by Lux Central for an aperitif. I love everything about Lux, the design, the atmosphere, the offerings, the music, the details. I sit down at the bar and order a cocktail, "something savory." This is the type of place you would not want to miss an opportunity to let them create something that isn't on the menu; or miss witnessing the production and ingredients that goes into every drink. The quality of the ingredients is nonpareil. Jeff, the owner of Lux always makes me these special little plates of various vegetables or fruits marinated in alcohol that he calls accouterments. These are the most delicious little things, they are these little drink snacks...chipotle vodka, oven roasted tomatoes, smoked bacon....marinated local citrus... I order one thing and next thing I know I have like 7 plates in front of me. This place puts the biggest smile on my face. The cocktails are strong here so I will hit up the light rail and head off to dinner.
I'm off to an Izakaya for dinner. Sometimes I can't stop thinking about Nobuo at Teeter House. I literally crave this place once a week. It must be that magical James Beard Award winning wand that Nobuo Fukuda is waving across downtown Phoenix. Sometimes this place just pops into my head randomly throughout the day and my salivary glands promptly overact. Is it the umami mixed with the quiet and intimate atmosphere? Tonight I'm going to start with the kim chi with napa cabbage, dried shrimp, sesame oil, red chili. This must be going back to my desire for salty fermented cabbage. This stuff is amazing, perfect. I love the dried shrimp in this kim chi. Next, I'm going to order the melt in your mouth Nasu or eggplant, bacon, red miso, Tokyo negi. I will top my day off with my favorite dish of all, the grapefruit & Hamachi with avocado and white truffle ponzu oil. This is the most perfectly balanced dish, I am sure it was created for my palate, everything in this dish works perfectly together. This dish is worth not sharing. I love this place, sometimes I just let my boyfriend do the ordering and I don't even know what's coming out. I have not had one thing here that I did not love. Things that I don't even like on a normal day, such as lamb and foie gras, magically taste delectable. And while the menu is incredible and the service is far above par, it is far from pretentious. You truly are getting the best of the best at Nobuo at Teeter House. Every ingredient, every dish.