At this annual trade show, chefs, store owners, industry buyers, and journalists converge to check out the latest products and trends. The show is usually held in New York's Javits Center, but due to construction, it found a temporary home in Washington's convention center.
The extra distance didn't stop vendors of all sizes, types, and experience levels from flocking to the capital city to put their best chips, oils, spreads, salts, and salamis forward.
Center City's Metropolitan Bakery owners were showcasing their new corny goods, which debuted in Philadelphia last fall, and are now being marketed for national distribution.
"Popcorn is a familiar food, something everyone has grown up with," says Metropolitan cofounder Wendy Born. "People like familiar things that have a new twist." Besides being economical and easy to produce, Born adds that popcorn's neutral flavor opens up the door to creative mix-ins. All three of its new popcorn flavors - stout with smoked almond, bourbon-infused, and spiced peanut butter - were displayed.
Long Island-based Hampton Popcorn coated its kernels with cookies and cream and white and dark chocolate swirls, while 479º Popcorn doused theirs with black truffle flavoring and white cheddar.
Wine Country Kitchens, from Napa, added popcorn oils in flavors like white truffle and roasted garlic to its line this year. According to president Darrin Channels, the popcorn kits, which include matching salts, were a big hit at this year's show.
The new-to-market non-popcorn popcorn from Mini Pops was addictive. They use sorghum grain to create their tiny puffs, which have the same nutty taste as the real thing but without those annoying molar-sticking husks.
A few other Philly-area companies were represented, like stalwart Society Hill Snacks, which was excited about its new Black Lava Coco Almonds.
And newbies hoping to break into the market, like the Sauce Works from Pottstown and Chef Salt from Elkins Park, were proudly doling out products in the "What's New, What's Hot" showcase.
The owners of Sauce Works were coating pulled pork with their original and chipotle BBQ sauces, which were smoky and sweet without being cloying.
The Chef Salt display included eye-catching jars filled with seasonings that, the owners believe, will turn any boring meat into something spectacular. Their 7 Salt blend, which contains unprocessed salts, had earthy flavors one wouldn't expect from salt.
The 318,000-square-foot display area at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, hosted 2,400 vendors with products from around the world. Roaming the sections of international foods, where even far-flung countries like Morocco and Sri Lanka were represented, felt like taking a mini-vacation and sampling the best of what each country had to offer.
In the Italian section, fragrant with prosciutto and Parmesan, men in slim-cut suits sipping espresso gesticulated over their precious goods. Balsamic vinegars, some aged for decades, were displayed like perfumes at Bergdorf's. Some were even encrusted in Swarovski crystals.
But every corner of the United States was represented as well, including Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co., out of Maine, which has won so many awards over the years they barely had enough room to display their products. A panel of experts - restaurant owners, chefs, journalists - selected the winners, who walked away with Emmy-like statues that they proudly displayed on their tables. This year, Hancock Gourmet took home one for its new buttery lobster risotto, and one for its entire product line, an impressive honor perhaps equivalent to an Emmy for best TV series.
Monique Deschaine from Ann Arbor, Mich., has been selling her expansive line of Al Dente Pasta, which cook up in three minutes, for 30 years. She's been at about as many shows. "We like coming and seeing all of the people. These are people we came up in the industry with. By now, they are friends," she said.
The line to meet, greet, and talk sweet with Duff Goldman, the Food Network Ace of Cakes star, wrapped around his booth and ended near the escalators. Goldman, with his soul patch and raspy voice, was at this year's show to build buzz about his new product line of brownie mixes and, fittingly for this bad boy by Food Network standards, "cake tattoos." This new product, he says, will allow bakers who don't possess his artistic skills to easily adorn cakes with patterns like leopard prints.
And only at a show like this, with its staggering array of products, could Nueske's bacon peacefully neighbor with flaxseed bars from Oskri.
Some vendors were there to invite buyers to join in the fun, showing off their interactive products.
Leslie Kozupsky from Chappaqua, N.Y., has a new Mozzarella Cheesemaking Kit, which contains everything one needs, minus a gallon of whole milk, to make cheese at home.
Former Top Chef contestant Bryan Voltaggio was inconspicuously laying El Bulli-like truffle carrot spheres with smoked salt and key lime foam on his table. He was there on behalf of texturePro, a company in which he is a partner, that markets to chefs who want to get a little gastro in their kitchens.
Air is a maltodextrine mix that turns almost any liquid into a foam, while Aga Zoon, an agar-agar-based product, turns liquids into gels.
Voltaggio's product might not be as easily categorized as chocolate, cheese, or tea, but there is no doubt it belongs at the Fancy Food Show. After all, everyone was there for one reason: They like to play with food.
Contact staff writer Ashley Primis at 215-854-2244, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ashleyprimis on Twitter.