On our sole day in Baltimore, we managed to squeeze in a lunchtime trip to Michael Mina's Wit & Wisdom, located in the stunning Four Seasons Hotel just east of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The menu under executive chef Benjamin Lambert, spins classic American tavern fare into the realm of fine dining. The food and service are premium, though diners may find the prices to be a little more fine dining and a little less tavern.
The beatiful dishes, crafted using locally-sourced ingredients share the spotlight with the restaurant's interior design. The sprawling, gorgeous restaurant has a hip but cozy feel to it, like eating at your (very) rich best friend’s house. Helping the open feel of the interior are the picture windows offering a really lovely view of the harbor.
It was only Monday lunch, but I decided to crack open the libation menu anyway - a 17-page document that is more than just a list of spirits - it's a mission statement. Ingredients are all made in house, premium small-batch spirits are favored, and the beer list celebrates the best of the mid-Atlantic, with great beers from breweries like Dogfish Head and Victory having never strayed far from I-95 on their journey to the bar. At happy hour there are even National Bohemians (the unofficial beer of Baltimore, aka Natty Boh) for only $1.88.
I had difficulty saying no to the Sticky Wicket (below), a dark glass of Jim Beam, Fernet Branca, Smoked Maple Syrup and soda stirred and served over ice and an orange peel. After a few bad experiences with Fernet cocktails earlier in our trip, this smoky concoction paid full tribute to my favorite amaro.
The smoked house-made ricotta (below) was an excellent starter. A simple arrangement of ember-roasted eggplant, whiskey barrel vinegar and black walnuts helped provide some depth to the fresh, clean taste of the creamy cheese.
Our table shared the lobster corndogs (below). Served with a whole grain mustard crème fraiche, the bite-sized poppers were as delicious as they were cute - the light breading highlighted the sweet succulence of the crustacean.
The toasted peanut soup (below) proved another great starter as the server poured the soup into a bowl coated with sorghum marshmallow and garnished with crispy chicken cracklins. All together they made a rich, toasty and textured first course.
For entrees, W&W categorizes all the options into one of 4 protein sections: fresh-cracked Maryland blue crab, Chesapeake rockfish, organic chicken and Maryland Piedmont Ridge beef. Each of the sections offers 3 different preparations from which to choose - a great way to provide a little diversity on the menu without forcing the kitchen to prep a dozen different types of meat and seafood.
From the beef section, we selected the shaved roast beef salad (below), with crunchy potatoes, creamy horseradish sauce, and smoky blue cheese, sort of a deconstruction on the classic roast beef sandwich, with the potatoes subbing in for the bread. The classic combination of flavors was really tasty, if on the light side.
From the rockfish section, we got a straightforward but glorious beer-battered rockfish sandwich (below), with shredded cabbage slaw and whole grain mustard. The batter was perfect, light, crispy and appropriately beer-flavored, and the fish was cooked nicely. The copious amounts of boardwalk fries were pretty good as well.
Every time we're back in Baltimore I always find something new that adds to the city's charm. Wit and Wisdom certainly fits that bill. I'm already looking forward to what we discover on our next visit.