Attendees paid a $30 admission to be wined, dined and given a chance to bid at a live auction. Silent auctions have become common at fundraisers, allowing eager participants to passively snark each other to get their desired loot -- and having a controlled but outspoken brawl over goodies like Denver Nuggets tickets and a New Belgian Fat Tire Cruiser bike gave this evening an animated quality.Also up for grabs were a Lavazza Blue Italian Cappuccino and Espresso machine, a collector's baseball signed by Goose Gossage, and a three-month membership to the Denver Athletic Club. Winning beer for a year at the Paramount Cafe seemed like a thick slice of the American dream, but reading the fine print revealed that the winning bidder only gets his first beer free every day in 2011 -- a bummer unless the winner only drinks one free beer a day. The evening's edibles and drinkables were presented at several stations throughout the restaurant, and guests were given the smartest cocktail party plates invented to date: portioned acrylic plates with nifty wine-glass holders built into them. These multi-tasking dishes probably saved Marlowe's a small fortune in carpet cleaning, and there was plenty of rich finger food to pile on them: warm Brie apple petits fours on cranberry-walnut bread served with a fig-orange compote for dipping; crisp corn chips smothered with lobster bits, sweet corn salsa, crème fraiche and guacamole; cold cucumber discs topped with herb Boursin, green onions and specs of anchovy; and delicate bites of Togarashi tofu with soy-wasabi sauce. Pours from Marlowe's cache of wines were a superb way to lube everyone up for some competitive bidding; the selections included Indaba Chenin blanc from Africa, a floral, clove-scented white; Colores del Sol Malbec from Argentina, red, with dark berry and balsamic tones; and Matua Sauvignon blanc, a snappy white with notes of green herbs and citrus -- which paired especially well with the fresh oysters. Watching your oysters being shucked to order in front of you never gets old, and the crowd around the oyster station rivaled the crowd around the auction tables.
Even more satisfying than the menu was the reason for the occasion. One hundred percent of the night's proceeds went to the Voice, which won a 2009 MasterMind Award for literary arts -- and this paper not only tells the stories of the homeless, but also employs them. Vendors buy the papers for 25 cents each, sell them for $1, then keep the difference.
Marlowe's generous donation of time, hard work and splendid wine and victuals made for a gratifying evening, and supporting the Denver Voice is a gift that keeps on giving -- just like free parking spots downtown.