By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
SUMMER is beginning to draw to a close, but that hardly means all the enjoyment of the season is gone, as proven by the enticing slate of experiences awaiting guests planning to attend the upcoming second annual "A Touch of Thai" cultural experience being coordinated by Pom Tse, a native of Bangkok, Thailand.
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Maintaining a strong, and deeply respectful connection to one’s ancestors is an integral part of traditions observed for generations by those who call The Kingdom of Thailand home. This Spirit House — a traditional home for the spirits of now deceased relatives—was made in Thailand. Pom Tse is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Muay Thai Grand Master Lek (with microphone), a Thailand native, will again be on hand at The Stifel Center to explain details of Muay Thai - what many call Thai Kick Boxing - to the audience at the now annual fund-raiser for Oglebay Institute being planned for the lawn and first floor areas of the mansion’s expansive grounds.seen. “A Touch of Thai” provides area residents another rich opportunity to learn more about the customs, world renown cuisine, clothing and classic creative beauty which together fashion the culture of the seemingly timeless Kingdom of Thailand.
This year's event will be held Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling and will begin at noon and conclude at 4 p.m.
"Our guests for this year's event can look forward to a meal which will reflect many of the distinctive tastes of Thai cuisine," offered Tse. "A selection of eight to 10 dishes will be prepared specifically for this event, and we will showcase elements of Thai food which have made it one of the most popular cuisines enjoyed worldwide in recent years."
Completing the food-based festivities of the afternoon's cultural fair will be a delicious array of traditional and innovative desserts to be offered buffet style.
Thai food combines the best of several Eastern cuisines: the oriental bite of Szechuan Chinese, the tropical flavor of Malaysian , the creamy coconut sauces of southern Indian and the aromatic spices of Arabian food, according to one food reviewer.
This cuisine traditionally offers a full range of tasting experiences, making it easy to offer a wide selection of dishes and sauces virtually guaranteed to hold tasty temptations for newcomers as well as those who have enjoyed becoming well acquainted with the diverse yet subtle flavors and textures this cuisine traditionally features at every level.
As this is a family-style event, foods are being prepared for guests of all ages, noted Tse.
It is a cuisine built on the use of fresh and natural ingredients, and is always plated with careful attention to the fine details of presenting foods so as to also stimulate the visual senses in such a way that a person's enjoyment of the food is uniquely balanced and involves several of the five senses, not only their ability to savor its taste.
This flavorful, spicy-sweet-salty-sour cuisine is exploding in popularity with thousands of Thai restaurants popping up across the U.S. in recent years.
"Eight to 10 dishes will be served buffet-style from noon 1:30 p.m. Some of the selections include shrimp and papaya salad, green curry chicken, panang chicken, spicy bamboo with ground beef and pad thai, the best known and most popular of all Thai noodle dishes," shared the Thai native.
Seating will be available both inside and outside the Stifel Center.
"This year we have been able to add a large tent for our guests who wish to enjoy eating outside but who would prefer the comfort it will afford," she offered.
Preparing the carefully selected foods for the cultural event are Chefs Usanakorn (Jeam) Chitvisuthipun and Kay Lohsiri of Columbus, Ohio.
The overwhelming success seen during the inaugural event held last summer prompted organizers to make tickets for this fund-raiser available for purchase only in advance of the event.
Returning in an expanded role this year will be martial arts demonstrations which will feature demonstrations of elements of the popular sport Thai kickboxing, and also examples of the classic Muay Thai, an ancient form of martial arts rooted in Thailand's culture from a time when hand-to-hand combat was the norm.
Guests at the event will enjoy an expanded and historically enriched program brought to this cultural event through the participation of a group of diverse students from the Columbus-based Ohio Muay Thai Academy, founded and led by a man with the very elite standing of Grand Master in this martial art form: Master Lek.
Master Lek has consented to share a look into a particular aspect of Thai tradition seldom seen in such public venues: Grabee Grabong, a weapon-based martial art from Thailand.
Demonstrations of Muay Thai kickboxing, a hand-to-hand combat style used by many Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, and Grabee Grabong will take place at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Other attractions include traditional Thai dances performed by elegantly dressed dancers. Dances will take place outside, weather permitting.
"Dancers from the Wat Ohio Dhammaram (Thai Buddhist Temple) in Columbus will perform traditional Thai dances," offered Tse, noting the tradition of dance to the Thai is a gift of beauty which can be shared easily between cultures.
The event will also offer an expanded opportunity for guests to purchase goods with true cultural connections to the traditions of Thailand, both ancient and modern.
A new addition this year will be the presence of Sam Thong, portrait artist and native of Thailand, who will be on-hand to do his popular caricatures. Work of this Washington, Pennsylvania, resident is well known to festival goers frequenting events in Pittsburgh and in the Ohio Valley.
"A Touch of Thai is a family event; there is something for everyone," said Stifel Center director Rick Morgan. "The menu is diverse enough for all tastes- mild to spicy. Kids will especially enjoy the desserts and having their caricatures drawn by Sam," Morgan added.
Pom Tse explained that Thailand is often called the "land of smiles," not only because visitors love its natural beauty and historical riches, but also because of the country's friendly people and fascinating culture.
She promises an "afternoon of smiles" at the Stifel Fine Arts Center as people get a glimpse of the sights, sounds and tastes of Thailand.
"This is a way to give back to the community and bring new experiences and tastes to the people of Wheeling. Last year the event was very popular and we look forward to a large crowd again this year," offered both Pom and Martin Tse.
Martin Tse is a native of Hong Kong, China. The couple have long made their home in the Ohio Valley and are the owners of the popular Wheeling businesses Golden Chopsticks and Silver Chopsticks.
Tickets for the event are just $15 and can be purchased at both the Stifel Mansion front desk at or by calling Stifel at 304-242-7700; at oionline.com; at the Golden Chopsticks Restaurant, 329 N. York St., Wheeling; or by calling 304-232-2888. Advance tickets are required and will not be sold at the door.
For more information on the event, call 304-242-7700. Proceeds from the event supports arts & cultural programming at the Stifel Fine Arts Center.