Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wit & Wisdom: A Great Name, A Great Establishment

It is a freezing and windy Saturday night. My husband and I decide to take a leap of faith by exploring a bar recommendation from the free paper. Looking extremely stylish in our huge puffer coats, we jump on the Circulator and head out to Harbor East Baltimore. The Circulator deposits us almost at the door of the impressive Four Seasons Hotel, which is where the bar is located. As we walk past scurrying valets and European sports cars waiting in the driveway, I wonder if we have made a grave mistake. Is this going to be way too sophisticated for us? Are we really allowed to come here? Only one way to find out! We push through the gleaming revolving door and enter the hotel.
To the left of the grand and beautiful lobby of the Four Seasons, we spy the sign for Wit & Wisdom and proceed to enter. Wit & Wisdom is split between a bar on the left side, and a restaurant on the right side. Though the two sides are separate, they flow into each other with a graceful ease and the whole space feels open and effortless. No doubt this "effortlessness" is the result of master designers and architects. Low, rustic looking tables and elegant couches create mini lounge areas where people chat and sip their cocktails. Large picture windows frame a beautiful view of the Baltimore Harbor and the hotel's courtyard. I can only imagine how green and lush it will look in the summer. A hundred or more white lamps illuminate Wit & Wisdom and fill it with a warm, soft glow. These lamps rest on skinny wooden shelves and create the illusion of magical floating lights. Potted echeveria (a large green succulent) and tall spring branches grace the tables and corners and bring a fresh and natural element into the space. In a nutshell, the room is a perfectly balanced mix of natural and industrial elements which make it feel modern and inviting.   
The bar itself is the anchor of the room : an impressive piece of black walnut two-inches thick, smooth on the top and rough cut on the bottom. Solid and elegant, I can't help but to think of this wood's story. Who grew it? Who sanded it? How many hands touched it in the process? Maybe a lumberjack hauled it through the snow? Maybe someone said "Yes!" over it? If only this wood could talk. As we lean our elbows onto this piece of wood to read the cocktail list, we become another part of its saga. 

This long oval shaped bar at Wit & Wisdom seats about sixteen people on each side leaving enough room in the center for five bartenders. These five bartenders are truly masters of their art. I watch them mix, stir, shake, measure, and pour with fluidity and surety. They know what they are doing, and do it well. They know the cocktail recipes by heart and are not afraid to improvise. One bartender leans over to ours as she is mixing a drink and suggests that she add a sprig of fresh sage. "I tried it yesterday" he says. "It is much gooood" he adds. As we read the menu and chat with our bartender, we learn that all the syrups, infusions, and juices at Wit & Wisdom are made on the premises in small batches by the bartenders. We are hooked. 
Our bartender tells us that using only fresh ingredients is key for creating a perfect cocktail.We try a unique one called Pickett's Fence made with ingredients found within a 100 mile radius of the bar. It is a mixture of rye whiskey, local honey, a sliver of granny smith apple, bay leaf infused vodka, Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, and a bay leaf garnish. As we watch our bartender prepare it, she explains to us the exact order of how to mix the ingredients. She says it is especially important to add the IPA last so it doesn't lose its carbonation. Before she adds the bay leaf garnish, she lights the edges of the leaf on fire to release its full flavor. When we take a sip, Pickett's Fence doesn't disappoint. Seeing and understanding each ingredient added into our drink makes us taste each flavor and really savor it. We notice many more characteristics of the drink than we would have had we not witnessed its creation. As we sip, another bartender comes over and tells us that he concocted the recipe for Pickett's Fence for a contest, and won. He tells us even more about the ingredients and why he loves it. His enthusiasm for the drink spills onto us, and soon we love it too. 
As we head home, I reflect on why Wit & Wisdom appeals to me so much. I realize it attracts me because going there is such a refreshing experience. It is refreshing to find out that an exclusive hotel has a completely accessible bar/restaurant which allows the average person to experience beautiful design and excellent service. I loved spending a perfect long evening there chatting, sipping, and just soaking up the atmosphere with my husband. I know that we will definitely adventure here again, and I have a feeling that when we do, we will be bringing some friends along. 

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