The Fort closes Monday for kitchen renovation

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Sam and Holly Arnold outside the Fort.
The Fort will be closed from January 11 through January 21 for a kitchen renovation -- the first since the Morrison restaurant, a recreation of Bent's Old Fort, was built out of 80,000 handmade adobe bricks back in 1962. Some of those bricks are right behind the dishwasher, which helped inspire the renovation project, according to Holly Arnold Kinney, whose father, the late Sam Arnold, created the Fort.

"We were at one point going to build a brand-new kitchen off the south side," she explains, "but instead, we decided to take the existing kitchen and just renovate it -- do floor-to-ceiling stainless steel with a new drainage system in the floors, so our staff can just hose it down at the end of the night."

And in order to do that, she had to close the restaurant for ten days -- but the Fort will remain open through this weekend, catching the start of the National Western Stock Show, and then reopen in time for the last weekend of the Stock Show, well in advance of Valentine's Day and Denver Restaurant Week, which starts February 20.

The new kitchen isn't the only change at the Fort. Executive chef Geoffrey Groditski has added some new items, and so has the store, which has moved inside from the courtyard and is no longer under the umbrella of the Tesoro Cultural Center. "The store is now run by the Fort," Holly explains, "so we have a lot more Fort items and food items, including my father's cookbook, Eating Up the Santa Fe Trail." One thing the store doesn't have? The Fort Cookbook, which is completely sold out and has become a collector's item on eBay, Arnold says.

Tesoro is now focusing on its mission as an educational organization -- and it's kicking off its 2010 lecture series at the Fort on Sunday, January 10, right before the restaurant closes for the renovation project. "Will the Real Jedediah Smith Please Stand Up?" will be the subject of two talks by Dr. Barton Barbour. The first, at 10 a.m., is $10 for Tesoro members, $15 otherwise, and includes coffee and muffins; there's a more elaborate dinner lecture at 6 p.m. that evening, which is $55 for Tesoro members, $65 for others. Reservations are required; call 303-839-1671 for more details.

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