ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — With ladle full of runny batter poised over a smoking skillet, my hands started to tremble as I tried again to make a perfect crepe, like the one that head chef Scott Baker had so deftly shown our class of wannabe chefs a few moments ago.
Baker, schooled at the esteemed Culinary Institute of America, made crepe making look as easy as pouring Bisquick, but I already had burned or disfigured an entire stack of the papery thin pancakes.
“I can't mess this up again,” I thought, gingerly pouring the batter onto the hot, buttered crepe pan. Then I ruined yet another.
No worry. At The Ostoff Resort's L'ecole de la Maison cooking school, even a novice can produce a five-course French meal. Baker spends much of his time running interference, making it virtually impossible to fail. Assistants in white aprons, whom we dubbed the “kitchen fairies,” scurried around wiping up spills and washing pots and pans.
The school, which lasted one morning and finished with a feast that included classic French onion soup, scallops au gratin and tenderloin of beef au poivre, was the highlight of my stay in Elkhart Lake.
Elkhart Lake, population 967, is at the edge of a clear glacial lake ringed by three resort hotels an hour's drive north of Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport. Though small, the lakeside town is home to numerous high-end restaurants as well as Road America, one of the world's fastest permanent road racing tracks.
My husband, Charles, and I stayed at The Ostoff Resort, 101 Ostoff Ave., Elkhart Lake's largest resort hotel and home to the Aspira Spa. Founded in 1886 by German entrepreneur Otto Ostoff, the original resort was open until the 1950s, when it was sold to a children's drama and art camp. Investors bought the Ostoff property in 1989 and rebuilt the resort.
Our suite included a full kitchen, living room and king-size bed, along with two flat-screen televisions. The bathroom had a yacht-size whirlpool tub where I spent several evenings relaxing with a glass of wine and a book.
The Aspria Spa has a full menu of spa treatments for men and women. My husband and I opted for a couple's massage. Dual masseuses gave us both an hourlong massage in a well-appointed suite. After the rubdown we had the suite to ourselves to relax in the whirlpool bath for an hour. The suite came equipped with a room-size shower with five directional shower heads. It was heaven.
Down the street from The Ostoff is the Victorian Village Resort, 276 Victorian Village Drive, the only Elkart Lake resort with a private beach. Guests at the Barefoot Tiki Bar on the Village grounds can have a drink while looking out over the water.