Keia Mastrianni

WFAEats Contributor

Keia Mastrianni is not a native Charlottean, but she is from the deep South. Born in Santiago, Chile and raised by New York Italian parents who blessed her with a name of Hawaiian origin, Keia Mastrianni was born hungry, pen in hand. She is currently on a mission to write about the things she loves, particularly food and our connectivity to it. Keia maintains a happy food blog called The Sunnysideup where she shares recipes and culinary musings. She is a contributor at Charlotte Viewpoint and also regularly contributes to Creative Loafing and their food blog, Eat My Charlotte. With a curious mind and passion for eating local, you can find her frequenting the Davidson Farmer’s Market or taking way too many pictures of food.

What’s your favorite childhood food memory? I remember my grandmother, Grandma Liz, cooking me farina in a small saucepan on the stove which she topped off with a pinch of salt and pat of butter. It was the most comforting dish.

What’s your most memorable meal (good or bad)? I traveled to Australia in 2000 and spent time in the desert near Ayers Rock. One night we were dropped in the middle of the desert with a group of people to dine outdoors, under the stars, on crocodile, kangaroo and emu. Once in a lifetime experience, for sure.

Do you garden? Since moving to North Carolina, my fiancé and I have developed a green thumb for vegetable gardening. We have a 16x16 foot plot where we garden year round. This has also opened up new pathways for us to talk freely about worm poop, glorious worm poop.

Kitchen pet peeve? My fiancé also likes to cook which means that the ingredients I buy for a particular recipe go missing when he gets to cooking in the kitchen. Grrr.

What cookbook gets the most workout in your kitchen? That is 100%, most definitely, hands down, Super Natural Everyday by food blogger turned author, Heidi Swanson.

Pancakes or Waffles? Lemon ricotta pancakes forever.

Keia Mastrianni

When I met Ken Mezger, we were sitting in the finance office of a local car dealership finalizing the particulars of a new car purchase. He was filling out paperwork, making small talk. The conversation quickly turned to food (no surprise there) and a talkative Mezger shared the annual Christmas tradition he and his Polish-American wife create each year. Namely, a pierogi party.

Diana Stewart

The caption on the photo in my Instagram feed said: “My Egyptian co-worker brought an authentic Egyptian breakfast to share at the office!” Pictured was a plate of fool, a mixture of fava beans and red lentils, along with pita, hummus and pickles. I thought, I could go for some Egyptian food and proceeded to bend social media to my willful appetite.

 Last Thursday, I attended the third out of fifteen battles for Fire in the City, the head to head chef’s competition that has made a raucous descent into our fair city. Fire in the City is an all out elimination style battle between Charlotte chef’s featuring a secret local ingredient and six courses for hungry spectators (Joe’s) to taste and judge in order to select a winner to move on to the next round.

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series

The Competition Dining Series makes its Queen City debut this week with Fire in the City, the sixth installment of  the head to head culinary competition sweeping across North Carolina. Fire in the City features some of Charlotte’s best chefs as they face off in an all-out battle to demonstrate their culinary chops.

Keia Mastrianni

I first met Anida Spratt, a young Javanese mother, at the Charlotte World Parade & Festival at Independence Park. She offered me klepon, an Indonesian dessert made of sticky rice flour balls and pandan leaf extract, the native plant that lends a vibrant green to a multitude of cooking applications in Indonesia. The balls were covered in finely shredded coconut, much like a truffle. In my most polite and gracious manner, surrounded by a trio of Indonesian women, I bit into half of it.

Keia Mastrianni

A twenty minute drive south brought me to the home of Raul Alatorre and his wife, Alicia, a newly transplanted couple of Mexican origin. The Alatorre’s moved eighteen months ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico to their suburban home in Ballantyne. Raul’s job of 22 years brought the couple here. He works for Mission Foods, the largest tortilla manufacturer in the United States.

Keia Mastrianni

This series aims to explore the plethora of cultures that live in Charlotte by dining with families inside their homes on the food of their culture.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I scheduled myself to have dinner with a woman from Sierra Leone. This was a first for me, dining in the home of a complete stranger. I left the husband at home, unsure of whether it would be an imposition to bring him along.

Keia Mastrianni

No sooner had I set foot in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral kitchen did a rather tall and imposing Greek woman hand me a hairnet, a pair of gloves and a plastic apron to wear. The Yiasou Greek Festival was just days away and there were tens of thousands of Greek pastries to prepare for sale. The kitchen was already abuzz with activity and I quickly fell in line to help with this massive culinary feat.

Keia Mastrianni

Down long stretches of winding country roads, about an hour northeast of Charlotte in a small corner of Stanly County, lies 39 spacious acres of farmland that has attracted visitors from the likes of Japan, Denmark and Germany, not to mention, the United States.