This past Sunday, Brett and I were fortunate enough to obtain passes to the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Washington Convention Center. Even though we already had reservations that morning for Birch and Barley’s decadent brunch, we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore this behemoth of an event.
I used to work for the Food Marketing Institute, so I had an idea just how massive these food exhibits can be, but nothing prepared us for the countless rows of vendors from all over the world showcasing everything from fresh meats and cheeses to chocolates to wine to vegan and gluten-free fare.
This was a unique opportunity, as the reason for the DC location was due to their home at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City undergoing extensive renovation. In total, there were 2,400 exhibitors, 80 countries represented, and 24,000 attendees. Whew! To say we were overwhelmed would be an understatement.
We started off wandering the aisles one by one, which soon proved fruitless given the endless number of them. Some cool features we got to check out included the “New Brands on the Shelf” area, highlighting the newest specialty food and beverages that would be debuting soon. We quickly realized that the hall was organized with countries along the back and companies in the front, with various showcases for states in the U.S. as well.
While wandering through an aisle, we happened to see a crowd of people gathered around a cooking demonstration. Turns out it was none other than Cat Cora showing how to make a Mediterranean dish with eggplant, Santorini tomatoes, and other vegetables. She was right by her booth of branded sauces and cookbooks, and also happened to be the keynote speaker at an awards event. Crazy to think we saw her the day before on an episode of Iron Chef America!
It’s hard to remember everything we saw, but some of our favorites included the endless amounts of olive oil, olives, and fresh cheese from Greece and Italy, trying a mangosteen fruit for the first time from the Thai exotic fruit exhibit, and of course, a Jelly Belly mural of Harry Potter.
We also heard there was a craft beer sampling booth, so with five minutes to spare, we found ourselves in front of the exhibit from the Breweries Association. It was our last stop of the day, and within a few minutes, we tried new brews from Dogfish Head, Allagash, 21st Amendment, Victory, and Lagunitas. Not a bad way to end a Sunday!