Eddie Tancredi, the executive chef of the Mediterranean-focused Adega at The 9 (2017 East Ninth St., 216-331-6289, metropolitancleveland.com) says that competition drives him. After advancing in the WorldChefs Global Chef Challenge held in Ecuador last October, he'll be representing the United States against 20 other countries at the next level in Greece this September.
But even for a chef who admits his primary influence is drawn from traveling the world to win titles, when summertime comes, it all comes back to the grill.
"Of course, you tend to gravitate toward the lighter fare," he says. "For me, it's grilled fish and grilled steak. And tomatoes. Being Italian, it's a huge ingredient."
In April, Tancredi launched his own line of ETC Seasonings (etculinary.com). His steak seasoning features pink peppercorn, coriander and fennel.
"It's floral and aromatic because of the pink peppercorn," he says. "It's more intense than any other pepper."
His line also includes a 10-Spice blend that he says works best for long-cooked items like rump roast, pulled pork or pulled chicken. Tancredi says its versatility has made it one of the most popular in the line.
The chef serves Chilean sea bass with a corn puree, a favorite summer ingredient. He utilizes an herb marinade on all fish, often featuring basil and cilantro.
A fire-roasted asparagus side topped with Greek dressing, feta cheese and accompanied by Kalamata olives comes with red onions that are pickled in-house. "It gives it a sweet tang," Tancredi says, noting that other pickled vegetables include the banana peppers on a panzanella salad.
A beet and fennel salad incorporates a host of Mediterranean flavors, all topped with a bright, summery lemon-thyme vinaigrette.
"You get earthiness from the beets, a licorice-type flavor from the fennel, saltiness from almonds, acidity of orange and creaminess of the goat cheese," says Tancredi.
Guests will notice more creative small plates and shareables lifted from the popularity of tapas "Because we have such Spanish influence at Adega, I wanted to introduce small bites with a lot of flavor," he says.
Look no further than the "World's Greatest Ham" plate featuring imported Iberico ham served with crostini, a bit of Manchego cheese and homemade citrus confit. "In Spain, you eat ham for breakfast, lunch and dinner," he says. "I was trying to do a meat and cheese plate, but using the best quality ingredients possible."
Adega also will be one of only a handful of restaurants in the country serving Iberico pork secreto, a cut from between the shoulder blade and ribs of the Iberico pig. It's featured as an entree with spiced carrot puree.
"There's something special about Iberico pork and ham because it's from a black-footed pig that you can only get in Spain and it's fed only olives and acorns," says Tancredi, adding with a laugh, "It's like the spoiled pig."
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