The Dining Insider: A Comfortable New Image for Cromwell's, star chef Dana Herbert's baking classes, and more beef than you can stand

Cromwell’s Redefines Comfort

We’re jazzed about some changes at the classic Cromwell’s Tavern in Greenville, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary and has since embarked on decade No. 3 with some tweaks to the menu. Chef Michael Mullen, a chef instructor at Delcastle Technical High School, has created two dozen new dishes that you’ll find familiar and new at the same time. “The homey, laid-back feel of Cromwell’s is part of what has kept us going for 20 years, and comfort food goes along with that vibe. But it’s 2012, and we don’t want to be serving the same comfort food that was in fashion 20 years ago, but we don’t want to scare our regulars away, either,” says owner Pat Nilon. “Chef Michael genuinely embraces the idea of evolution—rather than revolution—and our new menu reflects that.” Fried mac and cheese of cheddar, gruyere and cream cheese is updated with roasted Roma tomatoes and Creole mustard. Mullen has taken the in-house smoked brisket from a barbecue sandwich to a French dip and a slider. “Food evolves with the introduction of ethnic and trendy flavors to familiar dishes,” Nilon says. “We like comfort food to mean comfort flavors—smokiness, blackening, sesame, a tangy slaw, a cut of Black Angus, the right bread for the right sandwich, an au jus or aïoli. The feeling of satisfaction—that you got exactly what you wanted—is the greatest comfort of all.” New additions include the Caribbean peppercorn-crusted tuna loin seared rare and served over black beans and rice, griddled pineapple and cilantro-red onion salad. Other seafood additions include mussels, three styles of crab cake, a pair of salmon dishes, scallops and shrimp. Other ethnic touches are evident in choices such as light tandoori bread for the turkey breast sandwich. The salad menu remains strong, offering lots of healthy choices, as does the sandwich menu, which offers grilled salmon with baby spinach sandwich, on toasted multigrain, with hard boiled egg and mustard-caper aioli. Stop in. Check it out. And don’t forget about Cromwell’s Authentic Mexican night on Wednesdays and half-price wines on Monday nights. (Thanks, JulieAnne, for the photos.) 571-0561,

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Bake Like a Pro

There’s a reason why chef Dana Herbert won the reality show “The Next Great Baker”—the man can make a cake like nothing you’ve ever seen. Lucky for us, he’s happy to share his decorating secrets. On Feb. 2, he’ll teach the art of designing wedding cakes to anyone who wants to learn—amateur or pro. “While the class is for anyone at any level of cooking skill, this will not be a basics session,” he says. This is the real deal, direct transmission of the knowledge, tools and techniques anyone can use to become an award-winning decorator. Herbert will be joined by chef Jay Qualls from Nashville, a competitor—and friend—from “The Next Great Baker.” Find chef Herbert’s kitchen at 1901 N. DuPont Hwy. in New Castle. The class lasts from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. The price is $275. Register at Start baking.

Say it With Cupcakes

Those who are in search of something more special than the typical heart-shaped box of chocolates for this Valentine’s Day might consider calling Cupcake Heaven in North Wilmington. Owner Drew Hurst can customize with hearts and other symbols of your undying love and affection. Gentlemen, the act to follow: “Will you marry me” spelled out with cupcakes decorated with a photo of the couple’s faces, which he created for a customer a couple years ago. Of the 150 flavors to choose from, red velvet—the most popular flavor all year—skyrockets for Valentine’s Day. The not-so-close favorite? Triple chocolate. But you can’t go wrong with any choice. And it works—she said yes. 426-0270, 

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Three A’s, Four Diamonds

There are few restaurant-hospitality honors as prestigious as the AAA’s Four Diamond Awards. Here’s to the four Delaware winners for this year:
The Hotel du Pont, Wilmington (36-year recipient)
The Green Room, Hotel du Pont (27-year recipient)
Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, Rehoboth Beach (20-year recipient)
Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, Dover (9-year recipient)

Watch for more on the awards ceremony, held yesterday in Philadelphia, in an upcoming Insider.

Steak House Confidential

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It starts with an aroma that causes you to lift your nose as you walk through the restaurant’s doors. You instantly picture an icy martini, raw oysters, a snappy salad and a baked potato split open and waiting for pools of butter and a confetti of chives. Then there’s the main event: a thick steak spilling pink juices onto the plate. Decades of culinary tradition have seared the classic steak dinner into our memories. It’s a meal that has fueled both romance and business deals. Steak has survived health crazes and diet fads. Even the economy hasn’t touched the craving. Most restaurants offer steak. Some call themselves steak houses. Check this month’s DT dining guide to find out why. Click here.

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

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