Blue Mountain Pizza

Flavor: Indulgently rich upscale standards
Ambiance: Punched-up pizzeria: Think khaki-comfy instead of jean-casual

Even moviegoers who have only a passing familiarity with Dirty Dancing—and as someone who owns the Ultimate and Anniversary editions of the film on DVD, I’d include most everyone who’s only seen it two or three times in that piteous group—know the Baby in the corner scene. I suppose if parental interference was all that kept the teenage you from pursuing a relationship with the most dashing rebel around, it’s a meaningful moment. But for my money, the most resonant scene in the whole movie is when Kellerman’s smarmy grandkid, who’s being groomed to run the Catskills resort, tells Patrick Swayze’s character he’s thinking of doing something new with the end-of-season dance show this year.

“Oh, I’ve got a lot of ideas!” Johnny responds exuberantly, immediately shedding his cool like a too-tight necktie and thrusting his hips in time with an imagined Cuban beat.

Of course, it turns out all Kellerman the Younger had in mind was the pachanga. (“He wouldn’t know a new idea if it hit him in the pachanga,” Johnny brays after his boss is safely out of earshot.) Still, the exchange perfectly encapsulates the sentiments of every working stiff who’s patiently waiting to be freed from creative constraints. Imagine the wedding-dress maker who’s told her next dress doesn’t have to be white, the house painter asked to design a freewheeling mural or the pizza maker given the chance to ladle lobster sauce over baked snapper.

That was the scenario last month at Blue Mountain Pizza in Weaverville, which recently debuted a monthly Monday-dinner series for which all the tables are draped in white linens and the kitchen swaps shredded mozzarella for brie. “We thought it would be exciting to transform the restaurant one Monday evening a month into a fine dining establishment,” a blurb on the pizza parlor’s Web site explains.

Happily, the experiment is equally exciting for diners. Even folks who don’t regularly dine at the cozy eatery, and are thus spared the thrill of seeing their hamishe haunt get all gussied up like a scraggly skateboarder on graduation day, are sure to delight in the four-course prix-fixe feast Blue Mountain is offering. (The prix, by the way, is an eminently reasonable $40, not including drinks, tax and tip.) Every dish I sampled was prepared with skill, care and all the enthusiasm palpable in Johnny’s liberated yelp.

The menu changes monthly, but seems to stick to the same basic template: The meal opens with a seafood appetizer (Guinness beer-battered jumbo shrimp are on deck this month), followed by a soup or salad. Diners have the choice of fish or fowl for their entrée, then finish with an ultra-rich cheesecake for dessert. Menus for the third-Monday dinner are posted online on the first of the month: With only 20 seats available, diners are encouraged to make their reservations early.

“We will welcome a limited, very limited, number of guests,” the Web site warns.

Photos By Jonathan Welch

Indeed, Blue Mountain manages to successfully meld sincere hospitality with stern exclusivity on third Mondays, starting with the “Private Party” sign posted on its front door. Although its wooden interior retains all the warmth the restaurant exudes when clad in street clothes, servers are notably knowledgeable and attentive, befitting a just-south-of-fine-dining establishment.

All 20 diners are seated and served at once, which makes the meal feel a bit like dinner aboard a cruise ship or at a wedding reception. (Those associations are heightened by the one unfortunate element of the evening: The entertainment, which was provided by high schoolers perhaps not quite ready for the fine-dining scene.)

Although all four courses skewed very rich—if Blue Mountain served any more courses, they’d probably have to charge less to offset the inevitable stomachaches—I was won over from the first, a starting course of six baked oysters.

Blue Mountain spun its oysters, which tasted as though their natural flavor has been pasteurized out of them, into tasty little pizzas. I’m not sure if it’s gastronomic boredom or economics that causes folks in oystering communities to take all sorts of liberties with their bivalves, but the oysters at Blue Mountain recalled the liberally dressed and baked oysters I’ve had in places like Apalachicola, where one of the most popular preparations entails no fewer than four highly indelicate ingredients. While Blue Mountain refrained from topping its oysters with bacon, cheddar, jalapenos and hot sauce, their cheesy barbecued version, made with a sugary sweet barbecue sauce, had the same refreshingly insouciant attitude. I found the shrimp-crowned Oysters Bienville a mite too creamy, but loved the salty, spinach-based Oysters Nicole.

Spinach also starred in the salad, which was decked out with baubles of mozzarella and barely toasted cubes of sourdough bread. But it was the lemony vinaigrette that stood out: It had the fullness and smooth mouthfeel of great olive oil, courtesy of Theros Extra Virgin, bottled locally by the Theros family. Blue Mountain is such a big believer in the stuff that the restaurant sells it by the bottle. I would have been content to sup on the salad and the warm, yeasty dinner rolls that arrived at our table almost as soon as we did.

Both available entrées were lovely, although the chicken breast encaged by spinach and brie was already plenty rich before the kitchen doused it with artichoke sauce. The accompanying wild rice, seeped in a strong chicken stock, worked well for sopping. The linguine underlying the terrific baked snapper was noticeably undersalted—one of the joys of synchronized eating is watching everyone in the room reach for the salt shaker at the exact same time—but the poached lobster served atop it was nicely tender.

What Blue Mountain’s doing is not only delicious, it’s inspirational. Might a Chinese restaurant like to try its hand at Italian? Why shouldn’t an upscale restaurant fry up a few chickens? Here’s to Blue Mountain, for being at the forefront of edible experimentation and giving area diners a reason to pachanga.

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