This weekend, we spent Saturday, along with the rest of Manhattan, at the highly awaited Great GoogaMooga food and music festival in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. It was an absolutely perfect day – sunny, clear, and breezy in the high 70′s. We started the day off at Coney Island to watch my roommate cross the finish line at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and then rode the subway twenty minutes to the festival. Given that we arrived at the Park just after 10 am, and GoogaMooga didn’t start until 11, we thought we could perhaps wander through the fairgrounds while they were still setting up – but no such luck. We wound up being the third and fourth people in line to get into the festival, and could see all the vendors coming and going with kegs, coolers of food, and various equipment, which only heightened our anticipation.
However, Mooga’s first downside arrived shortly after 11 am: we were still corralled in our line, now several hundred people deep, with no sign of when we’d be able to enter the festival. Clearly it takes time to set up for an event of this magnitude, but with all the preparations and hype, we were a bit shocked that we wound up standing in line an extra thirty minutes after the festival was supposed to begin, with little information or reassurance from those working the gate. Just after 11:30, we were finally and suddenly let in to Nethermead Field and the party began!
Arriving at Mooga early was a great call; we were able to walk around, get the lay of the land, and map our our game plan for tastings before the crowds built up. We also discovered that most of the hot food vendors wouldn’t be ready to serve their tastings until after noon, so we decided to start with some dessert since most of that was already made and on ice. I’d been hearing things for months about Momofuku Milk Bar‘s Crack Pie, and encouraged my dessert-ambivalent boyfriend to make this first stop with me.
Oh. My. God. Crack Pie. Now I know what all the fuss is about! Our slice of pie was very cold, which was appreciated as the outside temperatures were climbing. The base was a standard buttery crumbly pie crust, and the filling…. words can barely describe it! It was almost a cookie-dough consistency – a cross between a custard and caramel, and tasted like a mix of brown sugar, butterscotch, and a little bit of heaven, and the top was bruléed! Even Adam couldn’t stop eating this – and he admittedly doesn’t love dessert! Needless to say, starting Mooga off with the Crack Pie set our expectations very high.
Following the crack pie episode, we sampled several dishes in quick succession, navigating our selections using the GoogaMooga iPhone app, an awesome tool that helped us manage the event at our own pace. In the next hour, we tried:
Fried Chicken Wings, sprinkled with Chili Powder and Paprika, drizzled in honey, from Bromberg Bros. of Blue Ribbon Restaurants:
The spicy, juicy Thai Sausage Sandwich with Asian Slaw from DBGB:
The Chihuahua Crif Dog – a hot dog wrapped in bacon (!!) served with slices of avocado and sour cream.
And more dessert – a banana ice cream with peanut butter cookies sandwich from MELT Bakery:
Perhaps we should have paced ourselves better, because about an hour in to the event, we were completely stuffed! Our attention turned to the gorgeous beer and wine tasting tents that were set up in the center of the grounds and we walked over to get our taste on. Row after row of wineries and breweries had set up shop in the maroon and orange striped circus tents. But as soon as we approached the them, we saw signs telling us that no cash was accepted here – we would have to wait on line to get “Googa Moula” – credits you must purchase to exchange for beer and wine.
There were a couple of ”Googa Moula” lines scattered throughout the meadow, but the lines were really long and didn’t seem to be moving, so we opted to skip these and go back later when the lines were shorter. Big mistake – the lines only grew longer as the day went on.
Instead, we went to the regular beverage stands and got some Blue Moon, white wine, and a few other craft beers to sip on. These lines were also long, but not as long as ”Moula.” We were able to score a couple of huge cups of beer and spread our blanket out under the shade of large tree to enjoy. It was probably my favorite part of the day, just sitting there in the shade with music rocking out, watching people go by and all the action unfold.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a mix of hanging in the shade, sipping beers and wine, and trying to avoid sunburn while waiting on lines for food and drink. Luckily, there was enough excellent food and beverage enjoyment to counteract the line waiting. A couple more excellent samples rounded out the afternoon:
Fried Cheesecake Bombs from James Restaurant - including two Lemon-Ricotta and one Chocolate. Completely out of this world good!
We also tried a fried chicken Bahn Mi sandwich, but it was actually rather bland and unmemorable, so it’s not pictured here.
Finally, we ended the day with the Polenta with Sausage and Peppers from Frankie’s Spuntino, which was off the hook!
Oh, and because we hadn’t fully ruptured our stomachs at this point, we also snagged ourselves a Momofuku Milk Bar Chocolate Chip/Marshmallow/Cornflake cookie for the train, fully securing our one way ticket to food coma!
We left GoogaMooga around six pm, making our stay at the festival just under seven hours! Needless to say, a great time was had by both of us. Though GoogaMooga didn’t hit it completely out of the park, I thought the event was really well done, especially given the immense numbers of guests and vendors, and the fact that it was the first year.
In summary, here’s what GoogaMooga did well:
- Location – Nethermead Field in Prosect Park was picturesque, secluded, lush and large enough for the masses.
- The FOOD! Both the astounding variety and incredible quality of the dishes were the highlight of the day
- The music – while music wasn’t a selling point for me to attend, I really appreciated that there was always something upbeat and interesting being played on one of the two huge stages in the park
- The app – Helped us Type-A foodies scope out the dishes (and prices) we were interested in before the event, and hunt them down once at GM
- The regular beverage tents – these saved the day for us since there was no way we were waiting in the hour-long lines for Googa Moula! Even though the wait here was still thirty minutes, double-sized cups of beer and wine more than made up for it.
And where it fell short:
- Crowd control – Anyone at Mooga will tell you that the biggest downside were the lines. Especially when it came to alcohol, where the lines could take upwards of thirty minutes, most of the day was spent waiting in line for drinks or food.
- Cell service – This one is a toss up – the huge crowds clearly cause cell outages, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world – it was kind of nice to be cut off for the afternoon. However, lack of wireless meant most credit card machines and laptops that helped Mooga fuction also went down.
- Googa Moula – as mentioned, these lines were over an hour long, which turned many off from taking advantage of the craft beer and wine tastings. Plus, the laptops were down so instead of handing out “Moula” cards, staff was giving out red carnival tickets to exchange for booze. Overall, it seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong when it came to “Moula,” so hopefully next year’s event will have a better system in place.
- Speakers and demos – maybe it was because the event started late, but none of the highly touted guest speakers (Michael Symon, Pat LaFrieda) seemed to be on stage when and where they were supposed to be. Like music, this wasn’t a huge pull for us, but we still noticed the disconnect.
Overall, the pros of Googa far outweigh it’s first year shortcomings, and I’ll certainly be back for round two in 2013, with high hopes that they’ve ironed out some of these kinks!
Did you visit the Great GoogaMooga this weekend? What did you think?