AZTEC — It's lemongrass meets bluegrass.

On Saturday, anyone hungry for a sampling of the riches of Thai cuisine will get more than a mouthful.

The ThanThip Thai Café's afternoon-long food tasting party will celebrate its opening last fall and seek to make new acquaintances

For $10, hungry diners can enjoy beer or wine and sample seven of the café's most popular dishes and dessert.

Also included is something even more unexpected than some of the complex flavors in a bowl of creamy coconut-chicken curry -- a live performance by an acoustic bluegrass band, the Squash Blossom Boys, from Albuquerque.

Originally planned as an official grand opening, owners Randy and Thipsuda (or "Tip," as she's called) Orbesen changed the event to a one-day tasting of a half-dozen dishes. They wanted to meet and feed more guests and set the mood with live music.

"It's a matter of keeping up with orders, since we are limited in space," Mr. Orbesen said. "Rather than offer whole meals, we wanted to give our guests a variety so you can come on by, hear the band, have a beer, and fill your plate."

The Orbesens have been working hard since opening their doors in October to spread the word about an internationally popular cuisine. They want to encourage potential diners not to shy away and defer to more familiar territory like Chinese food.

"You've got to give it a try - just once - and see if you don't just love it. I mean, I'm a redneck," Orbesen said. "So it took me awhile to try my first bite.


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It just took people I knew to get me to go in, sit down and try it. But I'm glad I did - every bite since has been so good."

The Orbesens task everyone in the family to keep the café successful.

While Randy works full-time as president of his construction company, he often swings by to fix a leak or make a repair. Son Pat, 14, helps in the kitchen with cleanup and dishes. And thanks to Fawn, 16, the café has an expertly designed menu. In November, she launched Thanthip's Facebook page to try to extend its reach.

Augusta Liddic/The Daily TimesPatrons dine at Thanthip, a Thai restaurant in Aztec, which opened in August of this year.
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Patrons dine at Thanthip, a Thai restaurant in Aztec, which opened in August of this year. (Augusta Liddic)

Color images of the cafe's myriad tasty offerings - from noodles to curries and soups and desserts - glow enticingly above likes and exclamation-point-heavy raves by customers who clearly value having Thai food six days a week in the neighborhood.

The Squash Blossom Boys, who will play throughout the afternoon and early evening, hail from Albuquerque, and feature Randy's grown son, Dustin, from a previous marriage.

"I had to call in a favor," Randy joked. "We are really happy they could do it."

Son Dustin credits his dad for getting him hooked on music, buying him guitars and dobros when he was younger.

"We're going to play a mix of bluegrass, old-time music and some folk tunes," Dustin said.

The band is a core unit of four members, playing solely acoustic songs on fiddle, bass, banjo, mandolin, dobro and guitar. They released an album in 2010 and are currently recording a new album, set to release later this year.

"The majority of our customers have already tried us and liked us before," Orbesen said. "We want to enlarge the circle and help let people know how good Thai food is."

The tasting, which costs $10 for adults and $8 for kids, is Saturday, from 1 to 7 p.m., at Thanthip Thai Café, 104 S. Main St. For more information, call (505) 334-1234.