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Tony's Market serves lessons in unconditional love...and fruitcake

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Tony's Market facilitated two good holiday deeds last night: It hosted a food-tasting gala for Colorado Gives Day to benefit Street's Hope, and it also presented guests with fruitcake that was actually worth eating.

Street's Hope is a faith-based, non-profit ministry that provides a transitional housing facility and non-resident programs to assist women coming out of the sex-trade industry. Prostitutes, escorts, strippers and adult film actresses who want out of the skin trade can go to Street's Hope for free bed and board, support and counseling on alternative career options.

The event's tasting menu included a giant marble tray stacked with delectable cheeses; another with piquant charcuterie; a rich, flaky baked Brie en croute with Old Farmhouse chutney; and a selection of chilled pâtés that included beef, duck and seafood. Alas, the Swiss fondue was not meant to be: Guests circled the large pot for an hour or so, confused as to what it was and whether or not they supposed to eat it. The fondue had separated, with the heavy cheese lurking at the bottom and the surfeit of white wine floating at the top. So the fondue sticks, the basket of cubed bread and the bowl of apple chunks sat in limbo. Festive food stations were set up throughout the store, one of which had braised beef short ribs simmering in a savory sauce and served over sharp Cheddar cheese polenta. Good homemade polenta is a boon, what with those chilly tubes of the premade stuff haunting grocers' refrigerator cases. Servers walked through the crowd with platters of baby quiches, miniature spanikopita and bite-sized beef Wellington hors d'oeuvre. And there was no scarcity of sweets, with side tables loaded with rum balls, biscochitos, buttery Stollen, chocolate peppermint bark, Tony's signature "killer" brownies, and housemade fruitcake. Fruitcake has rightfully earned a horrid reputation for being dry, sticky logs filled with cloyingly sweet bits of abnormally tinted fruit and scorched raisins, but this cake was moist, not too dense, baked just right, and marinated in cherry bourbon. "Here's the sexy bastard that made the fruitcake!" exclaimed store director Stuart Stevenson, introducing Chef Ben Davis, who explained that he bakes the fruitcake, dips it in cherry bourbon, then wraps it in liquor-soaked cheesecloth to make sure every bite is intoxicating. Owner Tony Rosacci was there mingling with guests and gave party-goers a great piece of advice: "Don't drive after you eat the fruitcake." Also present was Leslie Hager, boardmember of Street's Hope, who was asked about the startling number of prostitutes who allegedly descended upon Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She affirmed that between 30,000 and 50,000 prostitutes migrated to Denver for the convention, and when asked if the Republican National Convention got as many, she said, "Yes -- it doesn't matter. Republicans, Democrats, the World Cup, the Super Bowl: Big events bring prostitutes to the city."

Added Street's Hope Executive Director Karen Allen: "There are more prostitutes out there than people think. People only think of street walkers, but there are escorts who advertise on the internet and ads in the newspaper." The DNC data came from "two individual source," she continued. "The sheriff's office in Adams County, and the Office of Homeland Security Research Council."

The evening's donations may go toward Street's Hope's future goals, such as opening a second housing facility and hiring a professional staff member to help assist underage sex workers. "They have a confused idea about what love is," Hager noted. "Our organization teaches them about unconditional love."

This unconditional love can be applied to prostitutes, and also fruitcake.

Just because fruitcake has had a sad past riddled with bad choices doesn't mean it can't be loved without judgment. Tony's fruitcake is easy to love, especially since it is steeped in holiday spirits.

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