Things are getting dark at the latest food festival coming to London.
The Black Food Festival has already toured globally, featuring in cities around the world from Berlin to Helsinki to New York. It will transform a space in Shoreditch into a black foodie wonderland on September 22, showcasing foods of the darker variety from around the world.
It’s not foods infused with charcoal either – a trend that flashed up a few years ago – with a nod to natural ingredients being used to play with favourite dishes. Drivers behind this trend towards black food could be a growing appetite for bitter dishes, as well as the bold statement they can make on Instagram.
For the festival, think black nori vegan temaki, black sambuca-infused ice cream and pizzas covered in black truffle.
There will also be squid linguine, wild mushroom rice, black tacos and black pudding, which can be washed down with a black beer or cocktail.
On the sweet side, people can sink their teeth into black macarons and cake and black sesame ice cream.
Plus there will be ingredients like dark chocolate, balsamic vinegar, blackberries and fermented black garlic. Black vegetables were actually tipped to be big last year but there wasn’t a stampede of black dishes arriving in kitchens – it’s still a trend that mainly delivers on social media feeds.
During the day, a jury panel made up of gastronomy professionals will evaluate the food offered by the exhibitors, with prizes awarded for the most creative and finest products.
Stepping out of the comfort zone
The festival offers unique platform for food suppliers, companies and drink brands to come together and showcase their products and services, according to the organisers.
“I am a food blogger in Budapest, following trends on social media,” festival founder Regina Boros told American publication BlackBook. “I noticed people’s crazy reactions to the posts where black cakes, or black hamburgers appear, even in the fine dining scene – like Noma in Copenhagen or other Michelin-starred restaurants. If someone shares a black dish, people love it more than usual. So it came to mind: why not create a food festival where every vendor can sell only black or dark coloured food?
“Black is not just a colour for me,” she continues. “It is something creative, beautiful, simple but complex. It can be weird to try a black hamburger or macaron, new types of black vegetables or fruits, black corn, black tomato, or even a completely black rice dish, but it is about experimentation – to step out from your comfort zone.”
Creating without colour
Experimental foods that have emerged at other shows include black Japanese shaved ice, black mocktails infused with CBD, black rum cake, black bonbon and black lollipops in New York.
In Tel Aviv, chefs produced everything from black mochi ice cream to a dahl makhana cooked in Coca Cola served on wild rice berries topped with balsamic forest fruits chutney. There were also smoked meats with black crusts, puddings made from poppy seeds, black tempura shrimp, chips with a smoky black eggplant barbecue sauce and corn on the cob with pimento black aioli.
The festival is planning to roll on to other cities too including Amsterdam, Tallin and Stockholm.
So is Sparkie ready to go to the dark side?
Are there enough black foods to warrant a festival? Black food was a fad on social media a few months back. I think it still stands out to the Instagram crowd as an interesting novelty like most unusually coloured foods.
Beyond the draw for the colour though, there doesn’t seem to be much to pull consumers into buying this stuff regularly. Charcoal in food was a thing for a short time until people found out that it is really bad for you to consume due to it binding nutrients and medications during digestion.