Category Archives: Stories

Vintage Goes Vroom

Vintage Goes Vroom was published in AAA Living’s July/August 2016 issue. They also suggested places to dine and sleep, if you go.


History is a driving force at the WeatherTech International Challenge in Elkhart Lake, July 14-17. Here, how to enjoy one of the largest U.S. vintage car events.


CHEER – From Bugattis, Bentleys and MGs to CAN-AMs and Formula I cars, if it’s ever raced on a track, it’s probably here. On the first three days, spectators watch competitors practice and qualify. The final day brings the actual races, which comprise just seven laps each (the better to protect these valuable automobiles).


SOAR – Twin zip lines strung high above the Road America track give visitors a bird’s-eye view of the action on the ground while the drivers race each other to a fun finish.


MARVEL – On  Friday and Saturday evenings, 100 of the cars parade into downtown  Elkhart Lake, where they’re parked for two hours so fans can see them up-close, take photos and even chat with drivers (many of whom don vintage racing gear for the occasion).


REV UP – Inside the actual racetrack a go-cart track lets would-be speed demons compete with their friends without ever giving up views of the vintage cars whizzing nearby.




DINE – AAA Three Diamond-rated Lola’s on the Lake serves elegant versions of American classics – such as lobster bisque with citrus creme fraiche or Norwegian salmon with arugula walnut pesto – against the stunning natural panorama of Elkhart  Lake. For dessert, toasted Swiss meringue adds an upscale note to strawberry-rhubarb tart.


SLEEP – Perched on the lake’s sandy shores, the century-old AAA Two Diamond-rated Victorian Village Resort offers a melange of rooms, suites and condos. Some rooms have private decks or porches overlooking the water, all with access to the resort’s indoor and outdoor pools. Also on the lake, the AAA Four Diamond-rated Osthoff Resort which is famed for its private swimming beach, where guests gather on select summer evenings to toast s’mores over a bonfire, or on any sunny day to swim, canoe, kayak or fish.,


An Ecotourism Escape to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin

An Ecotourism Escape to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin published in Mother Earth News on June 10, 2016


By John D. Ivanko, Inn Serendipity


What a difference a few miles makes. Just 33 miles northeast of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in West Bend, awaits one of Wisconsin’s natural treasures: Elkhart Lake.


There’s no surprise why the community is named after its pristine 292-acre Elkhart Lake, first settled by the Potawatomi tribe, naming the lake after they found it resembled the shape of an elk’s heart. By the 1880s, vacationers from Chicago and St. Louis arrived by train to be entranced by the tranquil and spring-fed azure waters.


The popular Osthoff Resort opened in 1886, with travelers arriving with steamer trunks in tow. Thanks to the preservation of the area’s Old World charm over the years, the Osthoff Resort and many other establishments continue to thrive to this day. At times, I felt as if I was on Mackinac Island with the white facades of the buildings and tidy gardens.


Don’t be fooled by the internationally renowned motor racing also found here. The road races used to snake right through town before being moved to the Road America race track southeast of the village. Outside of race times, though, this place is every bit the refuge for generations of families escaping the summertime heat.


So come early or linger for a few days after the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in West Bend and cool off at Elkhart Lake. Explore some of the spectacular natural areas, savor farm-to-table meals or relax at an eco-spa at The Osthoff Resort.


Recreation and Restoration


Thanks to the beautiful glacier-sculpted country side, there’s more than one way to take it all in. You might hike part of the Kettle Moraine State Park, bicycle the 17-mile Old Plank Road Trail, or ply the clam waters of the lake in a canoe, kayak or on a stand up paddleboard.


Start your exploration of the 30,000 acres of the Kettle Moraine State Park at the Ice Age Visitor’s Center. Naturalists there can help you figure out which of the 100 trails might be best for you after you learn how the glaciers transformed the area. A section of the Ice Age Trail in the LaBudde Creek State Fishery Area is but a few minutes drive from the village.


After exploring the outdoors, leave some time to restore yourself and become “infused with spirit.” That’s the name given to the Osthoff Resort’s acclaimed Aspira Spa. Aspira’s holistic approach to the spa experience – with massages that go by the names of Sacred Waters, Moroccan Hot Oil, Cedars and Chakra Balancing – is perfectly balanced by the soothing feng shui design of the facility itself.


Capturing the healing wisdom from indigenous peoples from around the world, many of the personalized massages and other treatments available also draw from local flora or the lake water.


Start or finish your spa experience in the Meditation Sanctuary, in one of the lounges or the shared lounge with whirlpool. Right down to the provided robes and slippers made with organic cotton, women’s and men’s relaxation rooms and yoga classes, every detail helps achieve inner peace, relaxation and bliss. My deep-tissue therapeutic massage session was just the beginning to my four-hour experience at Aspira. (Spa guests can stay as long as they wish prior to or after their massage or treatment.)


Lodging and Farm-to-Table Cuisine


Overlooking Elkhart Lake, the stunningly remodeled and Travel Green Wisconsin-certified Osthoff Resort provides luxurious all-suite rooms, complete with a kitchen. The resort has taken numerous steps to be energy efficient and reduce waste. Most noteworthy is the on-premise growing fields that supply the resort’s restaurants – and L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School – with fresh produce and herbs.


Besides swimming along the shoreline, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and other watercraft are for rent. There’s even scheduled bonfires through the week, s’more included.


If learning a new skill in the kitchen while savoring the dishes you create sounds like fun, don’t miss Executive Chef Scott Baker’s 5-hour course on French Cuisine where you’ll be making a roux like never before. The lively course is both hands-on and delicious, where the attentive chef and assistants coach you through the preparation of a delicious meal you share together after the preparations are done.


Despite being a small town of just over 1,000 year-round residents, Elkhart Lake is a tour de force in culinary experiences perhaps owing this honor to both the generations of families and auto race fans who return every year during the summertime months.


One farm-to-table restaurant not to miss is Chef Lynn Chisholm’s Paddock Club, featuring a seasonal menu seeped in European culinary traditions. Dishes include handmade spaghetti bolognese, Paddock burger sliders topped with short ribs braised in red wine and frizzled onions. Dessert might include a snickerdoodle creme brulee.


“We buy local produce and stick to the seasons,” explains Chisholm, who has been operating the Paddock Club with some of her family members since 2007. “We let the ingredients speak for themselves.” They sing, actually, thanks to Chisholm’s abilities as a “culinary translator.” With an open kitchen design for the restaurant, you can watch the action from the bar.


Another solid dining back-up is the lively Lake Street Cafe, offering creative and fresh California bistro-style fare all made from scratch. You can dine formal with white linen and candles or join the more casual bustle in the bar. John and Lynn Shovan pride themselves both the the quality of the cuisine and the depth and breadth of their wine selections. “Our focus is not on the chef, but the recipes and cooking from scratch.” says Lynn Shovan.


Getting around the historic village of Elkhart Lake can be easily done on foot, where you can browse the gift or antique shops, or pick up a bottle of wine. Award-winning sommelier and Vintage Elkhart Lake owner, Jaclyn Stuart, can guide your selection of that perfect bottle of wine or some of the many other regionally-made products she sells.


For organic provisions for a picnic, head to SainRx Organic Juice Bar for made-to-order juices, fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs for sandwiches, or grad-and-go salads. Finally, the newly restored Gessert’s Ice Cream and Confectionery can help keep you cool with an old fashioned ice cream soda when you’re not splashing about in the lake, just as it has done for nearly a century of summer vacationers.



Elkhart Lake, WI - A Chosen Spot - Elks Magazine

Elkhart Lake Wisconsin,  A chosen spot

By; Patricia Ann McNair

Under inches of new snow, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is peaceful and hushed.  Children build snowmen and play in the cold, their breath making white puffs in the frosty air.  The lake is the heart of the town, and in winter it is frozen and still beneath the dark, bare limbs of the trees that line its shores.  It is quiet here, and cozy, and decorated for the holidays, dressed and ready for the festivities of the season.  This is a place for all seasons, and a Midwestern gem of a town, welcoming the year around.  Like so many small towns and villages in the Midwest, Elkhart Lake is picturesque and charming with its clapboard houses, its repurposed depot buildings, its quiet neighborhoods, and vibrant gathering places.  But even among pretty towns in a pretty state, Elkhart Lake is something special.


Hundreds of years ago, the Potawatomi Indians named the area me-shay-way-odeh-ni-bis, meaning “Great Elk Heart Lake.”  The name came from the shape of the body of water found there, said to be like an elk’s heart.  Legend has it that the Potawatomi also called this place “the chosen spot.”  Elkhart Lake boasts rolling hills formed by ancient glacial activity and a nearly three hundred-acre crystal clear, spring-fed lake, making this place a spot chosen by settlers, visitors, vacationers, and sportsmen for generations.


Natural Beauty

         Elkhart Lake is nestled in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest, and the village is rich in the natural beauty of the area.  In winter, the land appears almost bleached, the trees’ branches scrubbed to shades of gray, and when the snow falls (and it will, this is Wisconsin, after all) the sparkling white blankets the area and the lake ices and a fine mist lifts from the water’s frozen surface.  What better way to see all of this wonder and splendor than by strolling the village or by snowshoeing or skiing through it?  Enjoy this place, like so many others have over the centuries.


Past and Present

         In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, during the days of stagecoaches and frequent railroad travel, Elkhart Lake became a resort town.  Located just 60 miles from Milwaukee and 150 miles from Chicago, the village is relatively close to those bustling cities in actual distance, but in attitude and tranquility, it is about as far away from a hectic urban center as one can get.


In those early days, rambling inns were built on the shores of Elkhart Lake, where guests could enjoy both the indoor comforts and the natural splendors of the outdoors.  During the Prohibition era, Elkhart Lake attracted folks in pursuit of good times and gambling, as well as natural beauty and outdoor recreation.  After Prohibition, the area reinvented itself, and today, some of these historic resorts still offer hospitality and comfortable accommodations to visitors; two notable examples are the Victorian Village and Siebkens Resort, both of which combine historic charm with luxurious modern amenities.


Another resort that has successfully reinvented itself over the years is the completely renovated and expanded Osthoff Resort.  In the 1950s, the Osthoff was bought by Harand Theatre Camp, and for decades young, hopeful performers put on plays and shows and practiced and studied theater arts on the grounds.  In 1989, Harand sold the property, and Osthoff evolved once more, this time becoming a condominium resort.  Handsome new buildings were built, complementing the Victorian look of so much of the town, and by 1995, the first phase of the reinvention was complete.


The next ten years would shepherd in further expansion and renovation for the resort, and today, guests can enjoy not just accommodations but both fine as well as casual dining.  The peaceful Aspira Spa, also located on the property, provides guests with an impressive menu of services, perhaps helping to encourage a prominent travel magazine to vote the Osthoff Resort one of the top resorts in the continental United States.  There are also some small inns around town (some of which are located in historic properties) and guesthouses, and a variety of other accommodations are available as well.


Winter Delights

During the winter months, Elkhart Lake and its surrounding areas offer visitors a rich assortment of vacation activities to choose from.  The charming downtown is just a short walk from the lakeside resorts, and there you will find a variety of restaurants, shops, and galleries, Fine (but not stuffy) dining options are available in Elkhart Lake, too, and the food in some of these establishments, such as the Paddock Club, the Elkhart Inn, and Lake Street Café, is made from locally sourced, fresh foods.  And a really good cup of coffee and fresh baked goods can be enjoyed at Off the Rail, a cute and cozy coffee shop occupying a space that was once a train depot.


Winter holidays are cause for celebration in Elkhart Lake.  Early December brings the Old World Christmas Market at the Osthoff Resort.  Like Christmas markets around the world, this one features dozens of vendors hawking crafts and one-of-a-kind items, as well as specialty foodstuffs.  And if so many temptations stir up an appetite, shoppers can partake of a good and savory Wisconsin bratwurst and a warm drink to recharge and refuel.


Folks looking for unique gift ideas can find them here and elsewhere in town.  From the potions and personal luxury items available at the Aspira Spa to the handmade ceramics and local artisan crafts at Two Fish Gallery and Sculpture Garden, there is bound to be the right gift available in Elkhart Lake for just about anyone on your holiday gift list.


And speaking of gifts, Santa and Mrs. Claus are frequent winter visitors to Elkhart Lake as well, hosting events and meals in the spirit of the holidays.  St Nicolas brings his reindeer to the Osthoff for brunch, while Mrs. Claus holds a cookie-decorating workshop for children and their picture-snapping parents.


A nice way to round off a day of shopping, baking, and reindeer watching is by taking a hayride that runs through Elkhart Lake.  Songbooks are handed out as riders climb aboard, and riders are led in carols and songs by members of local choirs.  After the ride, the Osthoff serves up cookies and cocoa near the fire, a lovely way to keep the holiday spirit nice and warm.


There are numerous things to do around Elkhart Lake as well.  Eight miles outside of town is Greenbush, Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Historical Society runs Wade House historic site, the centerpiece of which is the Wade House Stagecoach Hotel living history museum.  The collection of buildings includes a carriage museum, sawmill, and a blacksmith shop, as well as the hotel, which was originally built in 1850.  Wade House Baseball in the summer and a Civil War Weekend in September.  A fine way to enjoy the cozy hospitality of the Stagecoach Hotel is to make a reservation for one of the Wade House Hearthside Dinners, where diners are surrounded by the smell of fresh baked bread and roasted meats done to perfection.


Warmth Returns

Spring breaks through in Elkhart Lake slowly, a little at a time.  A crocus here, a daffodil there, tulips blooming in a garden edging a wraparound porch.  The full-throated song of retuning birds warms up the cool mornings, and the lake turns from an icy white back to a glimmering, clear blue.  In early March, the festive sounds of the Big Band Gala help usher in the spring and with the return of warmer weather, bikers can pump up their tires and once again take to the trails, while hikers can exchange their snowshoes for hiking boots.


Since the early 1950s, auto racing has been one of Elkhart Lake’s biggest lures, starting in the spring.  In the earliest days of racing in Elkhart Lake, drivers would tear through the streets of town and surrounding area in their sports cars.  It wasn’t long before the state government banned public street racing, but soon after that, community leaders and racing aficionados began a massive fund-raising effort to build a permanent racetrack.  The result was Road America. The topography of the region is perfect for such a thing; the track at Road America is just over four miles long with twists and turns that run around hills and drop down into ravines.


The racing season, which kicks off in the middle of May with Road America’s Spring Vintage Weekend, draws people from all over the world.  Other popular events at the track include a NASCAR race, motorcycle and dirt bike evens, and a number of gatherings of regional auto clubs.  For those wishing to revisit the older, less regimented days (at a legal driving speed), both of the public road-racing circuits are posted with a number of markers along the way, commemorating Elkhart Lake’s racing history.


Elsewhere in town during the springtime, music fills the air around Elkhart Lake.  Mother’s Day weekend is the time of Jazz on the Vine, a musical celebration at the Osthoff Resort that features jazz artists from all over the world.  Throughout the summer, the Osthoff Resort and Victorian Village Resort present weekends of outdoor musical performances and musical revues, and the anything-but-flat terrain of the region makes it a great place for golfers.  Quit Qui Oc Golf Club, a family owned and operated course, is made up of twenty-seven holes. The original eighteen-hole course was designed in the 1920s by Tom Bendelow, one of the era’s well-known golf course architects.  Under the vibrant blue of a Midwestern sky, gofers will find this rolling course both challenging and pleasing.


Then comes the cooler weather again and the resplendent Elkhart Lake fall scenery.  With the change of seasons, the brilliant colors of autumn so common to Midwestern forests bring subtle changes in the loveliness of the landscape.  With the autumn comes the end of the racing season at Road America, and as the slant of the sunlight comes through the vibrant colors of the state forest at a slightly different angel, and the shadows grow long over the village, people gear up for the fast-approaching winter.


It is during this time of year that the Farmers and Artisans Market is going strong at the Elkhart Lake Historic Railroad Depot; there is a chill in the air, but there is warmth here as well.  Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves send their toasted scents into the air; leaves crunch underfoot, and Elkhart Lake’s restaurants serve up the harvest from farms close by.  There is a pumpkin patch at Henschel’s Indian Museum out on Holstein Road, and not far from that on County Road SR, the Sheboygan Broughton Marsh Park Tower offers a spectacular view of autumn in its fiery, colorful dress.


In late October, visitors can enjoy the Harvest Moon Ball-a big band dancing event hosted by the Osthoff Resort.  In November, Victorian Village hosts the annual NOMAD fest, (“NOMAD” is an acronym that stands for the New Original Music and Dance).  It is any wonder Elkhart Lake continues to attract visitors decade after decade, generation after generation, century after century?


There is much in Elkhart Lake to enjoy: a welcoming, charming, naturally beautiful Midwestern comfort and hospitable coziness that invites folks to stay a while, to relax and indulge, regardless of the season.  There are busy times yes, particularly during the racing season, but even then, the pace of the place is slow, easy, a much-needed change from the nonstop busyness of life in so many other towns and cities.  Na matter the season, Elkhart Lake has something to offer any visitor.  And the Village is surrounded by the rich splendor of the Kettle Moraine Forest, with its glacial hills and rolling terrain laced with hiking and skiing trails.  Visitors and locals alike choose Elkhart Lake, over and over again.  Just like the legend says, it is “the chosen spot.”


The Elk Magazine, December 2015/December 2016

Winter Merriment - Entertain, Decorate, Celebrate

With about 1000 local residents, the quaint resort town in December and January captures the feel of a quintessential winter wonderland, complete with horse-drawn wagon rides, plentiful shopping, and exquisite dining.  It will be hard to leave this holiday respite.


The Osthoff Resort, the largest of three resorts that share the area, sits at the entrance of the lovely community.  Its story began when the wife of German entrepreneur Otto Osthoff fell ill.  The then-Milwaukee resident had heard tales of the healing waters of Elkhart Lake, so he left the city to build a summer cabin where Pauline could recover.  Her health did return, and the couple decided to share this serene area with others.  A hotel was built near the lake, which became a popular vacation spot for affluent families for a while.  Later, it operated as a theater camp before being purchased by a group of investors who intended to build upon Otto’s idea: luxury accommodations with a majestic view of the healing waters, complete with fine dining and myriad activities.


Indeed, there is always something to do in the Elkhart Lake community.  Foodies will enjoy the L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School within the Osthoff Resort, which provides hands-on training from a classically French trained chef.  Chef Scott Baker and his talented sous chefs offer support and detailed instructions as attendees prepare a wide selection of dishes-from seasonal soups to a traditional French Christmas dinner, complete with a bûche de Noēl.  Afterward classmates dine on their final dishes and sample wines that pair with each recipe.


Aspira Spa is a beautiful organically designed spa where whole-body healing is key. An expansive meditation room is designed to awaken your senses through five elements; wood, fire, earth, metal and water.  The spa services, which include facials, massage, and hydrotherapy, embrace the healing powers of the area- even the Sacred Waters Massage utilizes warm lake water.


During December, holiday activities are high on the list and even become yearly family traditions.  Giddy children are excited to be part of Breakfast with Santa and Brunch with St. Nicholas and his reindeer.  Multiple holiday workshops are sure to create lasting memories.  Or grab your mittens and coat, and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around town while singing classic holiday tunes.  Then warm up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.


A large draw to the area during the first part of December is the Old World Christmas Market, a tribute to the Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg, Germany.  For 10 days, local vendors, as well as international vendors from as far away as Russia, Germany and Sweden, sell their wares, food, and baubles to the crowds. Dine on traditional German fare like bratwurst, sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel, and latkes while enjoying a German brew.  The 18-year-old event draws repeat crowds from neighboring states, as well as Wisconsin residents.  Market favorites include handmade glass-blown ornaments, fur hats, authentic nutcrackers, nesting dolls, and fine chocolate.




The city center has 20 restaurants, offering abundant choices from fine dining to casual and in between.


Grab a specialty coffee and homemade baked goods at Off the Rail, in the heart of Elkhart Lake.  This cozy café also draws guests for lunch with hearty gourmet sandwiches.


Whether you are looking for a family-friendly choice or somewhere to catch up with friends, Lake Street Café and the Paddock Club, just a few doors down from each other, are great choices.  Both offer distinctive menus and ambiance suitable for all ages and tastes.  Lake Street Café provides two dining styles: a separate dining room with a wonderful selection of wines and a more gourmet menu, as well as a casual side with delicious pub fare.  The Paddock Club, a European-style bistro, has a gorgeous, fully stocked turn-of-the-century bar area and a sit-down dining side that offers seasonal favorites utilizing local ingredients.  Try an Old-Fashioned there.  The locals believe their version of the libation is the best.


The Osthoff-Resort’s fine–dining restaurant, Lola’s on the Lake, is the prime location for guests to enjoy a delicious gourmet meal within an elegant atmosphere.  Families and couples alike revel in a night to dress up and experience a delicious dinner at this popular choice.




Vintage Elkhart Lake Wine Shop and Tasting Bar has become a hot spot for locals, as well as returning visitors.  Owned and operated by award-winning sommelier Jaclyn Stuart, the charming shop sells only wine that she hand-selects, offering unique brands.  Enjoy time at the tasting bar, and then pair your glass with a scoop of tasty gelato.  Take home a bottle of wine and Wisconsin-based artisanal cheeses, available at the shop, along with other locally made gourmet food products.


Unique shops in the village include Nordic Accents, a quaint boutique of Scandinavian items like jewelry, glass décor, and kitchen accessories. And at Two Fish Gallery and Sculpture Garden, owner Pat Robison sells his own ceramic pieces, as well as hand-selects other artists to showcase, including some fair-trade items.


For more information on the Elkhart Lake area, visit


Entertain Decorate Celebrate NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2015,

Lakeside Getaway

Wisconsin’s Elkhart Lake offers vacationers unparalleled natural beauty and recreational diversions with true Midwestern hospitality. This article by Michael J. Solender was published in the November 2015 issue of Lake Norman Magazine. PDF


Lakeside Getaway


If Lake Norman and the communities that surround it had a classy Midwestern cousin, it very well could be Elkhart Lake, Wis.


A stunning crystalline lake formed by a glacier, Elkhart Lake remains pristine because it’s unfed by rivers or streams. The third-deepest lake in the state, it’s a favorite with those who want to laze the day away on the water. Elkhart Lake capivates all who come to know her.


This surprising resort destination, just an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee, is particularly appealing to families because of the variety of recreational activities, dining options, and opportunities to explore are almost inexhaustible. Here are some of our favorites.


Kettle Moraine State Forest – Hike the Ice Age Trail or take a scenic drive along a stretch of Kettle Moraine, a fascinating greenway meandering along Wisconsin’s glacial landscape. Well-marked trails lead hikers through scenic bluffs, rocky outcroppings, alongside creeks, and past natural landscapes shaped over generations.


Road America – Elkhart Lake and racing have a history that goes back to the early 1950s, when the village transformed into an open-road race circuit destination that attracted top drivers from around the globe. Road America, the 640-acre “National Park of Speed,” opened in 1955 after the state legislature banned racing on public roads. The centerpiece 14-turn track hosts NASCAR’s Xfinity Series Road America 180 annually. The park offers more hands-on options year-round for visitors including go-karting, geocaching, paintball, ziplines, driving schools and camping.


Quit Qui Oc Golf Course – Hit the links at Quit Qui Oc, the Menominee Tribe name for “land along the crooked river.” Twenty-seven holes in a classic-style layout challenge novices and scratch golfers alike at this family-run course.


Elkhart Lake – The star attraction here offers many options for enjoyment. Fireman’s Park and public beach has picnic tables, volleyball pits, and plenty of sandy shore for seasonal access to the lake. Angling to fish for walleye or bass? Jay’s Guide Service is just the ticket as top guide Jay Brickner had spent more than 35 years fishing the lake and gladly shares his secrets. If boating is your thing, all manner of rentals – speedboats, kayaks, and even paddle-boards – are available, as are daily and evening pontoon tours.


Osthoff Resort – This historic grand dame of Elkhart Lake was originally constructed in 1885 and completely rebuilt 100 years later with special attention to its original history and styling. The luxurious all-suite hotel boasts a four Diamond rating from AAA and has photo-worthy lake views at every turn.


Aspira Spa – The true holistic spa combines ancient feng shui philosophies with the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. This world-class spa offers a dazzling array of treatments that leave guests pampered and blissful.


L’ecole de la Maison Cooking School – Learn finer techniques of bistro cooking, bread, and pastry making at the direction of Osthoff Resort’s master chef, Scott Baker. Hands-on programs make simple even the most complicated recipes. Feasting on your creations afterward is the ultimate reward.


Henning’s Cheese Factory – No visit to Wisconsin is complete without cheese. Henning’s, in nearby Kiel, has been crafting artisanal cheeses since 1914. Drop in for a tour and gain an in-depth understanding of how the freshest milk from nearby cows becomes award-winning cheddars, Monterey Jack, and Colby cheeses.


Lake Street Cafe – This California-style bistro has tasty wood-fired pizzas, terrific burgers, and one of the best wine lists in town.


Lola’s on the Lake – It’s only fair that Osthoff Resort’s Chef Baker should cook for you after your hard work at his cooking school. This fine-dining restaurant at The Osthoff will tempt with signature dishes such as pan-seared quail with roasted corn coulis and crispy ricotta gnocchi.


Paddock Club – Seasonal ingredients star h ere at this Wine Spectator Award of Excellence-winning European -style bistro. Sharing small plates like mushroom risotto fritters and tellegio flan is a wonderful introduction to main events such as calabrese smoked pork shoulder and Hanger steak with skinny fries.





Great Food at Elkhart Lake

Luxury Web Magazine, dedicated to the art of living well, recently ran this article by Manos Angelakis entitled Great Food at Elkhart Lake. Luxury Web    PDF


Great Food at Elkhart Lake


Elkhart Lake, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, is a small village (pop. 1,021 in the 2000 census) on the shores of the eponymous lake that attracts epicures because of the high quality food that is found in the area. The “farm to table” mantra that is constantly talked about in larger communities is practiced everyday here, where organic vegetables grown in local farms find their way to the village every morning, and one can visit pork-chops and T-bones “on the hoof”, within 5 miles of the village’s restaurants. If you are so inclined, you can also have fresh milk, warm from the cow, and excellent cheeses also produced within a few miles. Wisconsin is famous for their cheeses after all, and many US cheese producing companies are located within Sheboygan County, just one hour from Milwaukee and two and a half hours from Chicago. And talking about excellent food. First there is the Osthoff Resort, with two restaurants and a cooking school.


Lola’s on the Lake, named after the resort’s General Manager and enthusiastic supporter of the Elkhart Lake Village, serves regional cuisine created by an award-winning culinary team that crafts menus that change with the seasons. We had a couple of dinners here, and I will give kudos to the staff for the quality of the service, to the kitchen for its excellent fare, and to the sommelier for an outstanding wine list.


From the dishes we had at Lola’s, worth mentioning were: the Apple Walnut Stuffed Quail with corn and cheddar stuffing and maple bourbon jus; the Roasted Duck arancini with apple, ginger and watercress puree; Golden Bear Farms Pork Chops and sweet potato, rishi tea-poached apple, and buttermilk blue cheese butter; and the Stout-Braised Kobe Short Ribs with potato and vegetable hash, and blueberry Syrah demi sauce, to name but a few of the exceptional dishes. Accompanying one of our meals was an extraordinary 100% Pinot Noir from Napa Valley’s Sturino Trotta Cellars.


Actually, there is a Tasting Menu I highly recommend, that shows off the capabilities of the resident chefs, and can be had with Reserve wine pairings or with Standard wine pairings or even without wines.


The cellar at Lola’s on the Lake has a number of very interesting wines, mostly from California, that included some of the better Napa and Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons; brilliant Pinot Noirs; nice sparklers from Champagne, the Veneto, and Anderson Valley; Chardonnays from France; Sonoma and Mendocino; Zinfandels – including one of my favorites, called 7 Deadly Zins; and Ports, Late Harvest, and Ice-Wines, amongst others.


Then, there is Otto’s Restaurant that offers a full menu of American cuisine in a casual setting. Otto’s features mostly fun-food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as seasonally available outdoor patio dining, with beautiful lake views.


The Grilled Gulf Shrimp Cobb Salad, with tender greens tossed with citrus vinaigrette, Gorgonzola cheese, smoked bacon, tomato and avocado stood out, and so did the New York-style Cheesecake with Strawberries and Strawberry Sauce.


L’ecole de la Maison cooking school is headed by Scott J. Baker, Executive Chef at The Osthoff Resort. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, the premiere cooking school in the country, where he learned fundamental skills, and just as importantly, the reference points for quality. The day we attended, the course consisted of preparing pasta from scratch with numerous meat and/or vegetable sauces.


We prepared 6 pasta: Bucatini with Roasted Fennel and Heirloom Tomato, Black Pepper Pasta with Wisconsin Veal Bolognese, Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Garlic-Sage Sauce, Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Walnut Sauce, Spinach Fettuccini with Prosciutto de Parma, and Orecchiette with Sardinian Ragout and Rapini (Broccoli Rabe).


But the restaurants at The Osthoff Resort are only a few of the available excellent-food establishments just a short walk away in the town.


There is the Paddock Club, named after an infamous local gambling spot at the turn of the 20th century. It is currently owned by two sisters that understand what excellent food and good service, is all about.


The kitchen is the culinary domain of Lynn Chisholm, Owner and Executive Chef, and Cheri Hau is Owner and Manager front-of-the-house. We had dinner one evening at this surprisingly elegant dining space and I will attest that Lynn’s cooking abilities are equal to many starred chefs I have recently encountered. If you live anywhere nearby (Chicago, Milwaukee), it is worth the trip just to be able to experience their food. The menu, though small, offers something for everyone. We enjoyed handmade pastas and unique desserts. The wine list offered a great selection of leading, logically priced wines. Cheri, in charge of the dining room, has trained the staff who were there when needed, without being the least bit intrusive.


We tasted Lynn’s creative Pan Seared Scallops with sweet corn flan, porcini mushrooms, preserved lemon, shaved Parmesan, and truffle vinaigrette. Also, Crispy Pork Belly with radish, apple, watercress, jalapeno and ver jus. Exquisite Mushroom Risotto Fritters, with arugula and white truffle dip. A BLT Salad, with sliced local heirloom tomatoes, romaine lettuce, bacon lardons, red onion and blue cheese dressing. We also had a Roasted Beet & Zuzu Pickeled Fennel salad with orange segments, arugula, aged goat cheese, pine nuts and orange balsamic vinaigrette. Both salads were original and outstanding as were the appetizers.


We then had mains of pasta that included Butternut Squash Ravioli, with sage, shallots, d’ affinois cheese, hazelnuts, and black truffle oil; and superb Vale Ragu Papardelle, with San Marzano tomato, porcini mushroom, rosemary, sage, pancetta, prosciutto, and parmigiano reggiano. Again, both of the pasta dishes were dazzling; flavorful, with perfect ingredients perfectly balanced.


Near to the Paddock Club, is another culinary winner, the Lake Street Cafe, established in 1999by John and Lynn Shovan. There is an informal, rather loud bar/restaurant on one side, and a fine dining room with white linens and candles, on the other. The menu seems to be the same on either side and includes Salads, Sandwiches, Entrees, wood-fired pizza, and a Children’s Menu. There is a daily specials menu with choices of 3 soups, a Salad, an Appetizer, a Pizza, a Sandwich, and two Entrees (The day we visited they were offering Striped Bass with Risotto and Tilefish with Chorizo and Potato Hash). They make everything from scratch using fresh ingredients, make all of their stocks on premises, and bake their own breads and desserts. They offer an extensive wine list impeccably assembled by wine lover John that is the recipient of the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.


We began with a black-and-white sesame crusted ahi tuna, with wassabi paste, soy sauce, and sesame seaweed salad and continued with the tenderloin seasoned by garlic and herb Boursin cheese, Shiraz wine sauce, and fingerling potato. This was my favorite dish in this restaurant. The large tender cut of Angus Beef was cooked to perfection, with the flavorful cheese and rich wine sauce infusing the seat with a silky elegance.


I never really expected the quality of the food coming out from those kitchens to be so high. Even with a number of resorts located in the area, the chefs seem to be isolated in the north center of the country. I’ll admit I was astounded when I tasted the product of their efforts.


Just across the street both restaurants, on East Rhine Street, is Vintage Wine Shop & Tasting Bar. Owner Jaclyn Stuart is a certified sommelier and a very knowledgeable proponent of good food and good wine pairings. She carries over 100 wines, personally selected by her, plus a number of craft beers, most from the State of Wisconsin. She also carries her own private label of olive oil and vinegar plus local artisanal cheeses, salumi, chocolates, and bread. The wine classes and tastings that she conducts in her store are well attended.


We tasted three very interesting wines from California from her cellar, and I thought her comments about the wines were right on the money.


For more information on the Osthoff Resort and Aspira Spa in the resort, visit the Spa section.


For further information:

The Osthoff Resort.

The Paddock Club.

Lake Street Cafe.

Vintage Elkhart Lake.



Reflect - Sacred Waters

Organic Spa Magazine (April 2015) published this article by Kitty Bean Yancy that talks about award-winning Aspira Spa at The Osthoff Resort. Article.

How Sweet It is

A story about Paddock Club in the November/December 2014 issue of Catersource, writer Kathleen Stoehr talks DRINKS. “Brandy or whiskey based, the Old Fashioned is a cocktail for today’s crowd. Article.