‘Tis the Season for Tamales

Agave Issaquah Tamales

Agave Issaquah TamalesIt wouldn’t be the holidays without tamales at Agave Cocina & Tequilas.

If you love Mexican cuisine, you’ll know that tamales are a tradition that’s bar none. At Grand Ridge Plaza, Agave Cocina & Tequilas makes the finest homemade tamales in the region – but only for a limited time.

Agave Cocina & Tequilas co-owner Faviola Ramos learned the art of tamale-making from her mother, Maria Ramos. Faviola, who co-owns Agave with her brother Federico, loves sharing this tradition with the community. “Agave’s holiday tamales are made from a cherished family recipe that my mother and I cooked together for gatherings and Christmas Eve,” she said. “The sharing of traditions makes the holiday season so special, and trying new foods is a wonderful way to experience those traditions first-hand.”

Agave Issaquah BarFrom December 7 through December 24, holiday tamales will be featured on the menu at Agave Cocina & Tequilas. Large takeout orders are also available for holiday gatherings. The 2016 varieties include Roasted Poblano and Cheese, Shredded Chicken and Vegetables, Shredded Beef Brisket, Pork, and a vegan option. This season, Faviola has even created a Mexican Chocolate Tamale.

The finest tamales take hours to prepare and are made from fresh masa and corn husks. Chefs dedicate at least three hours to the process, but many cooks report that it can take all day. Preparing the masa is the most time-consuming step of the recipe. In fact, the daylong process of making tamales has become a social event, called a tamalada.

The return of traditional foods such as tamales is a hallmark of the holidays. Whether you’re dreaming of Agave Issaquah Patiohoney-baked ham, cedar plank salmon or Agave’s new chocolate tamales, we hope you’re enjoying this peak foodie season.

To place a special order for holiday tamales from Agave Cocina & Tequilas, call 425-369-8900.


Mrs. Claus’s Top 5 Tips for Great Santa Photos

Mrs. Claus IssaquahGreetings! Each holiday season, Santa looks forward to meeting new families, sharing their holiday wish lists and smiles, and taking keepsake photos at Grand Ridge Plaza in the Issaquah Highlands. Whether this is your first or fifteenth year visiting Santa, follow these tips to make this season’s Santa photos the best yet.

1. Be prepared! Plan the day and time of your visit in advance so your experience is relaxed. At Grand Ridge Plaza, Santa photos are available seven days a week from November 26 to December 24.

2. Have fun! Some of the cutest family photos are themed! Standouts include Seahawks jerseys, “unique” sweaters and pet portraits.

3. Consider your colors. For a frame-worthy photo, avoid wearing solid neon, lots of red (unless you want to blend in with Santa), or vibrant patterns such as checks and stripes. This applies especially to group photos with matching clothing.

4. Everybody smile! If you’re bringing small children or babies, don’t schedule your visit with Santa close
grp-santa-with-child to meal or nap times. The best time to visit is often in the morning, when everyone is ready to smile. No bah-humbugs.

5. Say hello ahead of time. Familiarize your youngest family members with Santa by visiting Grand Ridge Plaza before your photo session. Stop by to say hi – Santa loves visitors!

On behalf of Santa and myself, his elves, all the reindeer, and the many delightful helpers, we wish you a joyous holiday season!

Love from Mrs. Claus

Santa Photos IssaquahVisit Santa at Grand Ridge Plaza: At Grand Ridge Plaza, Santa resides in a cozy cabin at the Winter Woodland next to Regal Cinemas. Arthur & Associates – professional Santa photographers – offer photography for purchase through December 24. Open seven days a week, it’s ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to be rushed. For Santa’s daily schedule, visit SantaPhotos.com.


Profile: Restaurateur Carrie Orrico

Carrie Orrico Big Fish Grill

Carrie Orrico Big Fish GrillWhen restaurateur Carrie Orrico moved to Issaquah Highlands in 2007, she envisioned opening a restaurant in the planned retail development. She felt the community’s unique design and walkability made it a natural fit for a family-friendly restaurant that caters to Pacific Northwest tastes.

Fast forward to today and Carrie is the proud owner of Big Fish Grill at Grand Ridge Plaza, which opened in 2013. The restaurant also has locations in Woodinville and Kirkland, which Carrie founded with her late husband Kevin, who passed away last year following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Since buying her first home in the Harrison Street neighborhood, Carrie has moved within theBig Fish Grill Issaquah Bar Highlands and recently purchased a new home in the Pinecrest neighborhood. Her son Joseph (Joe) also lives in the Highlands and is a partner in Big Fish Grill, splitting his time between the Highlands and their Kirkland location.

“We love living and working in the Highlands because it’s so family-friendly,” said Carrie. “Big Fish Grill is proud to welcome families. We enjoy getting to know regulars and being part of the community.”

Big Fish Grill is a hotspot for its craft cocktails, Happy Hour and Ladies’ Night, plus Seahawk Sundays with specials in the bar. Seahawks craft cocktails run the gamut from The Shermanator, which is made with cucumber gin, Domaine de Canton, triple sec and lime sour, to Blue Thunder, which is made with blueberry vodka, blueberry syrup, lime sour and ginger beer. Seahawks cocktails are $10 all day when the Seahawks play.

Big Fish Grill Issaquah Happy HourBig Fish Grill has an upscale feel, but is warm and relaxed with a gas fireplace as the centerpiece of the dining room. Watching the sunset from the bar is a great way to enjoy the evening or relax before your movie starts. On Sundays, their a la carte Brunch event with fresh beignets is always a hit. On December 18, Sunday Brunch will feature a visit from Santa, plus surprises for the little ones.

“One of my favorite characteristics of Issaquah Highlands is its walkability,” explained Carrie. “I can walk to work and to Safeway for groceries, and my daughter can walk to Grand Ridge Elementary. Our guests often walk to Big Fish Grill, which isn’t typical in the restaurant industry. Being a neighborhood restaurant, it’s such a pleasure getting to know people, learning their preferences and favorites, and welcoming them back.”

Big Fish Grill proudly supports a number of community nonprofits. Recently, the restaurant hosted TheBig Fish Grill Issaquah Seafood Issaquah Schools Foundation Dine For Kids night, raising funds to support Issaquah schools. Big Fish Grill also hosts wine dinners in support of both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Pink Gene Foundation in support of breast cancer awareness.

“The Issaquah community is very giving and supportive, and our team enjoys giving back in-turn,” concluded Carrie. “It’s all part of the philosophy behind our family-owned local business – this community is important to our success and we’re fortunate to live and work in the Highlands.”

The Big Fish Grill is located at 984 NE Park Drive. For reservations, call (425)-369-4334 or visit www.thebigfishgrill.com. You can make reservations on OpenTable as well. Free parking is available in the adjacent parking garage. Street parking is also available.

Profile originally published in Connections Magazine, a publication of Highlands Council


Donate Toys and Spread Joy this Holiday Season

Did you know the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank (IFCB) needs donations of toys and gift items for families? This holiday season, Grand Ridge Plaza at Issaquah Highlands is partnering with IFCB to host a toy and gift drive to help fulfill the holiday wishes of local kids. From November 25 thru December 15, donations can be dropped off at Santa’s cabin at Grand Ridge Plaza – and he’ll ensure each gift is safely delivered.

Grand Ridge Plaza IssaquahSelecting a donation is easy: Simply choose a specific wish tag from the Holiday Giving Tree, which is located at Santa’s cabin. Or, select an item that you know kids love – something that’s a tried and true favorite in your home. You can also choose items from IFCB’s Wish List.

Donation drop off: From November 25 thru December 15, donations can be dropped off at Santa’s cabin at the Winter Woodland next to Regal Cinemas Issaquah Highlands and Big Fish Grill at 940 NE Park Drive. Santa and his elves will ensure that donations are safely delivered by December 25.

Donate a toy or gift: Toys must be brand-new and unwrapped. Popular gifts include board gamesSanta Grand Ridge Plaza (Monopoly, Battleship, etc.), art supplies, puzzles, books, and movie DVDs. For older children and teens, the most desired gifts are often curling irons and hair straighteners. At Grand Ridge Plaza, you’ll find a selection of toys and games at Marshalls and Carter’s. Gifts can vary in price and value; there’s no minimum value.

Donate food: IFCB is running low on essential items and welcomes donations of non-perishable food items as well. You can drop off these donations at Santa’s Winter Woodland, and Santa will speed delivery to IFCB. In-demand items include canned meats, healthy soups, breakfast cereals, pasta sauce, Boost/Ensure, nuts, and canned pasta meals. IFCB reports that it already has plenty of green beans and canned pumpkin on its shelves.

Santa Regal Issaquah HighlandsDonate new clothing: Help the IFCB fulfill wishes for clothing items by purchasing new clothing for kids. All donations must be un-washed with tags on. The most requested items at this time of year are warm clothing such as hoodies and winter jackets. There’s no need to wrap the gifts.

Year-round donations of clothing: IFCB also accepts donations of lightly used clothing and shoes for men, women, children and babies on a year-round basis at its warehouse at 179 1st Avenue SE in Issaquah. There is a 24-hour drop box at the front of the building.

Thank you for your generosity. Happy Holidays!


Holiday Treats and Sweets

Caffe Ladro Issaquah

Ben and Jerry'sWhether you’re a sea salt caramel devotee or passionate about pumpkin pie, this is the best time of year for holiday desserts and indulgences. To simplify the search for the perfect dessert, we’ve compiled this list of wonderful places to indulge at Grand Ridge Plaza. Bon appêtit!

Ben & Jerry’s: Everyone loves ice cream cake! For a party or celebration, why not serve a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake? Cakes are available in their freezer section at a moment’s notice. If you’re craving a scoop of Wayne’Swirled or Raspberry Greek Frozen Yogurt, we recommend pairing it with a waffle cone. Ben & Jerry’s is located at 1011 NE High Street, next to Harborstone Credit Union.

Caffe Ladro IssaquahCaffe Ladro: Whether you’re craving pie, cookies or brownies, Caffe Ladro has you covered. The Seattle-based coffee house has its own bakery and makes all desserts fresh daily. Enjoy a slice of pie at Ladro or order an entire pie for a special celebration. Don’t forget to order Thanksgiving pies 48 hours ahead for pick-up at Grand Ridge Plaza. Browse the bakery menu at www.caffeladro.com or drop by 1200 NE 10th Avenue, across from Big Fish Grill.

Safeway Bakery: Whether you need freshly-baked bread for a cheese tray or cookies for an afternoon treat, Safeway Bakery is a good resource for holiday entertaining. If you’re going to a potluck or office party, their Deli Department is standing by to prepare sandwich and cheese trays, salads, pizzas and much more. Safeway is located at 1451 NE Highlands Drive.

PinkaBella Cupcakes: Cupcakes and cakes are what PinkaBella is all about. Every day, the locally-PinkaBella Issaquahowned bakery creates fresh cupcakes in flavors ranging from Apple Fritter to Gingerbread to Cookie Dough. You can buy just one or a dozen; mix and match to sample them all. For custom cupcakes and larger quantities — and to guarantee you get the flavors you crave — place a custom order for pickup at Grand Ridge Plaza. To learn more about custom orders, call 425-861-0300 or visit www.pinkabellacupcakes.com. PinkaBella is located at 936 NE Park Drive, next to Sorella Salon.

BevMo!: Who said all treats have to be sweet? BevMo! offers a large selection of wine, beer and spirits, BevMo Issaquahas well as sodas, snacks and cheese. Looking for candy cane soda? Craving caviar? Need to fill a growler? The BevMo! team can help. Ask them about the best wines for pairing with holiday dishes, as well as recipes for holiday cocktails. Remember to sign up for a customer rewards card to receive coupons for up to $10 off. BevMo! is located at 910 NE Park Drive.

Starbucks: Take a break from the holiday rush and indulge at Starbucks. The baristas will expertly craft your favorite drink, whether it’s a Peppermint Mocha, Chestnut Praline Latte, Caramel Brulée Latte or Chai Tea. Add a holiday cookie to complete your visit. Starbucks is located at 903 NE Park Drive, across from Jimmy John’s.