I was visiting Denver, Colorado for a business conference and they had an off-site networking reception at The Fort Restaurant. Yes, Finediningdiva does have a full time job outside of blogging about restaurants that is completely unrelated to food. After a quick glance of the menu, I really was not interested in the menu options so I decided I was not going to go. However, once the restaurant was presented to the conference as having beautiful views that could be seen from 6,100 altitude, I decided to go purely for the experience and the free meal of course.
Just 30 minutes outside from our conference location in downtown Denver, we arrived at the Fort restaurant located 19192 Colorado 8, Morrison, CO 80465. The remote location of the restaurant allowed us to take in the beautiful scenery that the area had to offer. When we arrived in our tour buses, I immediately noticed how unique the restaurant looked. It truly looks like a fort! The restaurant is perked on a hilltop top next to a rock hill that has a large snake sculpture on it and a sign that says: Beware of Rattlesnakes. As I shared with my conference buddies, I can appreciate rattlesnakes because at least they make noise so you are warned that you are in danger. I am under the impression that we entered the restaurant from the side entrance but I could be wrong. Once we entered, there was a sign regarding the history of the restaurant and the location. Just a brief synopsis, the Fort was built in 1962 by Sam’l P. Arnold and was a replica of a famous fur trade Fort on the Arkansas River in 1833.
Once I made my way into the courtyard of the restaurant, I was greeted by a smiley server with a tray of Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Crostinis. The tomato and cheese mixture was beautifully piped on top of the crostini and had a beautiful presentation. This was a great tasting dish that gave hope to a delicious Western dining experience. Not a moment after that bite, I noticed people with this cute pink cocktails in their hand. The servers had a tray of delicious prickly pear margaritas that were sweet and not too strong. Definitely the highlight of my visit. I may have preferred a heavier hand with my cocktail if I was paying for it but it was free so I went for it and had several glasses. The other passed-around hors d’oeuvres included grilled beef skewers with mushroom and onion and grilled buffalo skewers with mushroom and onions. I tried the buffalo first and really enjoyed the meat though I was disappointed by how little the mushroom and onion were cooked. But once I tried the beef skewer, I definitely enjoyed that a lot better though the vegetables were still the same.
In the courtyard was a replica of a Native American teepee, a small burial area, a gift shop or museum, and a small fire pit with benches. The area was quite calming and peaceful. I really enjoyed it. A little walk past the courtyard area to the right, took you to another area that had an amazing picturesque view of the green hills of the Denver area. There was a cannon and an iron cactus sculpture. They even had half cut three trunks for seats to enjoy the view. It was a lovely place to take in the beauty of area, but watch out for the snakes! (I did not see one but the idea that they could be there is terrifying to me.)
The servers used these bells to get everyone’s attention to take us to the dining area. Our party was quite large so we were split up in to two dining rooms. My dining room was right off the courtyard area whereas I think the other room had the view of the hills. The room was a little small and the long tables were placed against the wall. But because of the size of the room, it made it difficult of both the servers and the guests to get between the tables and get to the buffet area. Before we got started with the buffet, the servers introduced the buffet items and made us chant this tradition cheer before our meal. Being in a room with uptight business people that are being forced to say a silly cheer is quite entertaining. Now, on to the food.
On the table were fresh baked fort breads, the leftover crostinis, and a house mixed green salad topped with pickled ginger, jicama, and toasted pepitas and Damiana Vinaigrette. As we entered the dining room, the salads were in these silver like steel bowls and were stacked on top of each other. It did not look all that appetizing. The salad dressing sat in a large while-like bottle on the table and greens were good but I could not get that image out of my head so I did not finish the salad. I passed on the bread but enjoyed a few of the crostinis from the social hour before the meal. The servers had red and white wine options and I chose the red. Nothing exciting about it but did was needed for the buffet portion of the evening.
The buffet included:
- Honey Chile Glazed Scottish Salmon Filet
- Corn chip Encrusted Chicken Breast with Cheese and your choice of: Red Dixon Chile Gravy or Green Chile Sauce or a combination of both
- Buffalo Sirloin
- Fort Potatoes which included roasted red potatoes with caramelized onions and corn
- Sautéed spinach
- Rice pilaf
I got a plate of the salmon, chicken with the red sauce, buffalo sirloin, potatoes, and sautéed spinach. Of the plate, the best thing on it was the Fort potatoes with onions and corn. I eat salmon at least once a week and the quality of the fish served was not great. It occurred to me once I got started, that maybe I should not have eaten seafood in a landlocked state. The corn chip encrusted chicken was awful. The meat was dry was the red sauce added nothing to the dish but actually made it worse. I hate to waste food and I was quite disappointed to have to send that back. The buffalo sirloin was decent. I managed to finish that small piece I grabbed. It was tough but all the flavors were there. The spinach wasn’t all that great either. It was bland and poorly seasoned. I also did not finish that either. I attempted to go back and get more of what I liked, which was the potatoes, since I disliked so many things but they were quick to take the food away after serving. So I was still rather hungry after the entrée portion of the meal.
Let me also say that the presentation of the buffet was not all that exciting either. I have been to buffets were the food is presented well and the tables were elegant but here, it was as if they found some serving dishes and just put the food out. I do not know how to describe it other than there was no love in the presentation. And I get that they were going with a Western theme but something more could have been added to really bring the meal together. The desserts were brought out a little after they cleared the entrée plates. The desserts were placed on the buffet table and were also family style. They included:
- Negrita Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream
- Fort Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust and Huckleberry Preserves
- Vera’s Caramel Blonde Brownie served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
- Chocolate Chile Bourbon Cake
- Apple Cobbler with Oatmeal Streusel and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
I choose the apple cobbler with ice cream and got a serving for my friend I met at the dinner. The cobbler was tasty but not the best I’ve had. But I enjoyed it more than the dinner so I finished the little portion I grabbed. The oatmeal streusel was different but not all that bad. I enjoyed that aspect because it was unexpected and enjoyable. I wanted to do chocolate but I did not want to be disappointed any further. Some people at my table got the chocolate mousse and really enjoyed it but they also cleaned their entrée plates so I do not trust their judgment in the food tasting department.
Overall, I enjoyed the drinks, the scenery, the crostini, and the peacefulness of the restaurant. But as it relates to food, I would never return. I knew I was not all that interested when I saw the regular dinner menu BUT a free meal at 6,100 altitude is something that does not happen every day. But you may just need to briefly stop by and then go to dinner someplace else. Below is my Seven Mac Score:
The Fort Restaurant
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Please look out for my next post as I review another restaurant during my Denver trip, as well as continue on my challenge to get to another one of Baltimore’s 50 Best! And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!
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