Secret Suppers in the shadow of Mt. Hood.
The intensely creative Christiann Koepke, author of the blog Portland Fresh takes the whole idea of a dinner party to a new level with her popular Secret Suppers series - "long table gatherings" which take place at surprise locations in the raw and scenic beauty of Portland, Oregon. Christiann, who works as a photographer, stylist and recipe developer in the Pacific Northwest uses her creativity and passion to provide guests with an unforgettable experience, both by her mouth-watering array of food as well as the picturesque locations of her dinners.
With tempting menu items such as Mussels Anisette and Roasted Squash cooked by Koepke and her team over an open fire, followed by poached pears with vanilla bean creme fraiche and washed down with a glass of fine port, it's no surprise tickets sell out fast. After all, who wouldn't enjoy a culinary tryst in the shadow of Mt. Hood or in a secret garden in the heart of Portland?
Christiann also teaches food and photography workshops where she offers "hands-on styling sessions with real-time feedback and instruction" for photographers of all skill levels. She loves to travel and explore food and culture as she collaborates with friends and business associates. Her work has been featured in various online and print magazines and she has been privileged to work with well-known food stylists and photographers such as Eva Kosmas Flores, Linda Lomelino and Marte Marie Forseburg.
Read on for my interview with this talented artisan who pursues beauty and excellence in everything she does. (All photography courtesy of Christiann Koepke and used with permission.)
"I want to be a person of influence that reaches many, showing compassion and love in any way that I can."
- Christiann Koepke
Where did you grow up, Christiann? I grew up in Missoula, Montana, a gorgeous mountain town. I have four brothers and grew up cooking and baking for the family, which is where my love for food began.
The process of beauty. For details and recipe, click here.
Prior to your current career as a photographer and stylist, what was your occupation? I was in the music industry, working for a well-known record label in northern California. I’ve done a lot of administrative work in the past through my work with them and artists apart of the label. Interesting how jobs can help lead and grow you into the next season of life. I never would have guessed that my work then would have helped prepare and train me for aspects of what I do now with running my own business.
The beginnings of making a Garlic Cayenne Confit
What are the pros and cons of freelance work? It’s absolutely thrilling to run my own freelance business. Making decisions every day that are completely up to me and where I want to take my brand comes with so much reward, felt both in the present state and then what is realized down the road. It is so much work and is not for the faint of heart, by any means! I’ve never worked harder in my life, but I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do. What sets this apart from my work for other companies in past job experiences is that I am doing what I love, and that very core of my passion fuels me to keep going. Most days fly by and I don’t feel like I’ve worked which is truly one of the greatest gifts and something I never want to take for granted.
Golden and roasted, this confit is perfect to spread over bread.
What do you love about your life? I love that I get to do what I love and get paid for it. That’s the dream right? But beyond my work, there’s so much more that matters way beyond the present day-in-and-day-out of what I create and that is family and friends. It really is all about people, you know? I want to be a person of influence that reaches many, showing compassion and love in any way that I can in the midst of the craze of keeping up.
What is your favorite thing to cook or bake? People ask me this all the time, and it’s so very hard for me to answer! This is something that’s always changing because the more I create, the more my love and passion is expanded. This is certainly true when I’m developing recipes in my kitchen. A standard go to for me is pizza and soup although certainly not limited to this! I love these two dishes because there are no rules, and I like to constantly step outside of the norm in my creativity, so making pizza and soup particularly allows me to do so.
Garlic Cayenne Confit and Roasted Chicken
What inspires you? I’m inspired by so many things, but I’d say a good start to my creativity is getting outside. Breathing the fresh air, being in a forest, by water… whatever it may be, there’s something incredibly refreshing to being in nature. It’s also a great place to breathe and reset, and creativity explodes from a place of rest. I also love watching others in the industry to see what they’re doing, to see what molds they’re breaking. Often I’m inspired by a concept and/or image I see. From there, I take it, think it over, and dream which provides a starting point for my own creativity to flourish.
Paleo Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Do you have hobbies? Of course! Cook, eat and shoot!. But lets see… I do love to explore Portland in my free time. It's such a beautiful city and there’s always more to see as new businesses are popping up all the time. I also love to sing and write music (still working on finding more time to do that). And of course, cooking with my nieces and nephews brings so much joy. Spending time with them in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do. I remember when I had my niece, who’s 9 years old, come be my little assistant for a shoot and she was a doll. She was in heaven and I had the best little helper I could have asked for.
"Creativity explodes from a place of rest." - Christiann Koepke
What is one thing you hope to achieve in 2016? I’d love to travel more and book work abroad. And of course, I would love to secure a book deal. Wait, that’s 2. Maybe those can be combined into one?
Flourless Dark Chocolate Rose Cake
You may follow Christiann Koepke on Instagram @christiannkoepke , or visit her website at Portland Fresh.
Cranberry Citrus Coffee Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup organic sour cream
zest of 1 large organic orange
1 t. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 c. fresh cranberries, rinsed and air dried
Confectioner's sugar (optional)
3/4 c. Brown sugar
2 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Nutmeg
1/2 c. Chopped nuts of choice
1/3 c. Butter, room temperature, cubed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.. Grease round 8" cake pan or springform pan.
In mixer, beat butter and eggs until whipped and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and then sour cream, extract and zest. In separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add to wet mixture in batches to incorporate.
For topping, combine 5 ingredients in a small bowl ( or food processor). Using fork, mix until butter is fully incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan and cover with topping and then cranberries. Using a fork, gently pat into dough with the back of the fork so that the cranberries and topping cooks into the top of the cake.
Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool at room temperature in pan for 15 minutes and then loosen edges with a knife and let finish cooling on a wire rack. Before serving, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar (optional).
Store in airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze in slices for later enjoyment.