Recipes from the Fort Restaurant

Proprietress Holly Arnold Kinney gives us the inside scoop on The Fort restaurant in Morrison, Colorado, where old-fashioned frontier food gets an infusion of modern flavors and style.

Colorado’s frontier days live on at The Fort, where proprietress Holly Arnold Kinney merges mountain man grub with fancy cuisine.

Lois Ellen Frank

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(This story originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Colorado Life Magazine)

THE FORT RESTAURANT in Morrison is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Denver, but in a sense, it’s a journey nearly two centuries back into Colorado’s early pioneer days. The architecture is an uncanny recreation of Bent’s Old Fort, “an adobe castle” built of 80,000 mud-and-straw bricks near LaJunta.

The Fort restaurant’s menu is America’s original “fusion” food. The Fort restaurant draws on the diets of the mountain men, pioneers, Mexican traders and American Indians who interacted along the Santa Fe Trail in the early 1800s. As those cultures mingled, so did their respective cookbooks.

The Fort has been a Colorado institution since its founding in 1963 by Sam and Bay Arnold, a husband-and-wife team who were gourmets and amateur historians devoted to the study of frontier gastronomy. Though both have passed on, their daughter, Holly Arnold Kinney, now owns and operates The Fort. Holly grew up in The Fort’s upstairs living space, and as a girl she had a pet black bear, Sissy, who lived in the courtyard.

The fare at The Fort includes some distinctly mountainmannish dishes, but there’s plenty to eat besides rattlesnake, buffalo marrow and Rocky Mountain oysters (though you should certainly try all).

For this first issue of this magazine dedicated to exploring the life of Colorado, we thought it appropriate that we feature some of the favorite recipes from this unique landmark restaurant which derives its inspiration from the state that we love. Enjoy!