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.
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Bent's Fort Hailstorm Julep
Since the day my father and mother opened The Fort in 1963, this has been a signature cocktail. My dad explains its origins:
“Back in the 1830s at Bent’s Fort in southeastern Colorado, the favorite hot-weather drink, especially on the Fourth of July, was the hailstorm. Enjoyed by trappers, voyageurs, Mexicans and Native Americans alike, it is the earliest-known mixed drink in Colorado and was described in a number of journals of the early west. At The Fort we use a variety of whiskeys or cognac for this bestselling drink.”
3 oz bourbon, scotch or Cognac
2 tsp confectioners’ sugar
2 sprigs fresh mint
crushed ice to fill one wide-mouth pint Mason jar or julep cup
Put the alcohol, sugar and mint in the jar and fill with ice. Secure the lid and shake vigorously 50 times. If using a julep cup, muddle it with a silver spoon, crushing the mint against the ice and the walls of the jar.
The ice will bruise the mint so that it releases its flavor, and the ice will melt a little and dilute the drink. When well shaken, remove the lid and drink from the jar.
Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson
In the spring of 1961, two years before opening The Fort, my family and I took a road trip to Mexico in a tiny English Morris Mini Cooper S. When we reached Durango, some 600 miles south of the border, we were told that the best place to eat was the drugstore. The next morning, we watched as a stream of young children came in from the fields to fill family lunch buckets with a special soup sold at the store. It smelled so good, we knew we had to try it.
Caldo Tlalpeño is the soup’s proper name, and when The Fort opened, it was squarely on the menu. No one could pronounce the name or knew what it meant, and despite its innate deliciousness, the soup did not sell. One day, Leona Wood, the septuagenarian who ran our gift shop-trade room on weekends, told us that she remembered “my grandmother serving us this dish.”
Miss Wood happened to be the last granddaughter of frontiersman Kit Carson, and with a little genealogical figuring, we dubbed the soup Bowl of the Wife of Kit Carson.
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs)
4-6 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp dried Mexican leaf oregano, crumbled
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup cooked, dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas), or canned garbanzos, rinsed and well drained
1 chipotle chile (canned), packed in adobo, minced
4-6 oz Monterey Jack or havarti cheese, diced
1-2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
4-6 sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)
1 fresh lime, cut into 4-6 wedges
Place chicken breasts and broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the top. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the chicken to poach gently for 12 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and cut into strips, about 1½ inches long. Return the chicken strips to the broth and add the oregano, rice, garbanzos and chipotle.
Divide the cheese among 4 to 6 deep soup bowls.
Return the soup to a boil, then ladle it into the bowls. Garnish each portion with avocado slices, cilantro, if using and a wedge of lime. Serve with hot tortillas as an appetizer.