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The Great GoogaMooga: Food and Music Festival Review

19 May

Today, we went to The Great GoogaMooga, a Food and Music Festival organized by the same people that do Bonnaroo.  It was in Prospect Park Brooklyn and was billed as “An Amusement Park for Food.”  There were two ticketing options, free tickets or “Extra Mooga,” a $250 all-access pass to a special section.  That was all we knew when we logged on to get tickets. After a huge technical glitch leaving hundreds of people trying to get the free passes without tickets (me being one of them), they sent an apology and eventually made it right by sending me codes for the tickets I was owed.  I debated the $250 ticket, but that is a lot of money to swallow for an unknown!

There is another day of the festival (tomorrow, Sunday May 20th), so if you’re going, you should especially read on for tips and advice!

We took the F train to the west side entrance and we were surprised to see no signage about GoogaMooga.  We walked across the park (a good 10-15 minutes) and finally stumbled on it.  I was thrilled to see there was no line to get in, and when we go into the park, it was pretty spread out.

We quickly formulated a game-plan: There were 3 of us, so we decided to get 1 dish at each stand and split everything 3 ways so we would be able to try more things. I highly recommend this system for food festivals! Sharing is caring folks!


They had different sections set up, and the first one we passed was The Hamburger Experience.  Lines were maybe 5-10 people deep and moving swiftly.  We said we would come back for burgers later in the day.  Sadly, that opportunity never came since it got very crowded later in the day.

One of the first things we realized is that there was NO service in the area… cell phone, text message, internet, WiFi… nothing.  I was bummed because I wanted to live blog pictures on Facebook (I found some service later and got the pictures up).


Our first stop was at the M. Wells stand for Bologna Foie Gras Grilled Cheese.


Yes… that says Horse Bologna.  I have to hope that it’s a type of bologna or a brand… trying not to think about it.


The sandwich was on well toasted bread that held the sandwich together nicely without distracting from it.  The entire thing was VERY rich and some in our party said it was just “too much.”  I thought it was indulgent and a little too delicious.  The flavors were great together, but I’m glad that we split it 3 ways and I only had 2 bites.


After this sandwich, we needed a drink.  We made our way over to the line where we were to get IDed and pay for a GoogaMooga glass and get some “GoogaMoula,” which was needed instead of cash in the Wine and Beer Tasting Tents.  The line was long, so we left Mike on line and went to get some water.  Upon arriving at the (very long) beverage line, we found out we could get beer at the stand, so we picked up some Blue Moon (a few of their more interesting beers were not yet ready) and went back to meet Mike on line.  It looked like he had moved way up, but, alas, a lot of people had just dropped out of line because they couldn’t get their system up and running.  About 20 minutes later (so a total of about an hour on line), some guy got up on a picnic table and apologized for the system being down and said that it wasn’t coming back up and we should try back in an hour.  Wow… thanks.  Glad we waited on line.

So on we went.

Orbit gum had a number of stands around, and they were giving out hot towels to clean up our dirty hands (along with samples of gum to clean up our dirty mouths).  When I took a pack of gum, the woman gave me a perfectly executed “fabulous.”  Nicely done.


We made our way to the “Hamageddon” section, which was heavy on the pork stands and the 80s.  They had this great pig sculpture and inside that cage was, indeed, a whole pig on a spit.  Awesome.


There were a few tempting stands in Hamageddon. Bacon Land instantly caught our eye with their Bacon Flight, but they weren’t ready yet.  They told us it would be another 30 minutes, so we went to the beverage stand to get more beers.  Sadly, even though that line was shorter than most, it was a good 30 minutes online to get beers, so we each got 2 at once.  Double fisting is the way to go!


We went to the Porchetta stand (a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try for some time) for their porchetta sandwich.


Porchetta is defined as “[slow] roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel pollen. Porchetta is known as having some of the best porchetta in the city (good name choice).


The sandwich was basic.  Roll + Meat. And it was fantastic.  Packed with flavor and the seasoning was just to die for.  I got a crispy piece and it was damn good.


Our next stop was Craft (a Tom Colicchio mainstay in NYC), where we got a Dirty Duck Dog.  This was a hot dog made of duck paired with pickled cabbage and black garlic.  It was our favorite nom of the day!  The duck was nice and flavorful and the sweetness from the black garlic was heavenly.  A truly perfect festival food.


We took a quick trip to the sweet section of Googa Mooga.


Very appropriately called the Sweet Circus.


They had a number of favorites, but as we sipped our beers, we decided that our best bet was the Dirtcake at Katzie Guy-Hamilton (of Top Chef Just Desserts Season 2).


The ingredients really sounded can’t miss.


And I love that she buried the cups in “dirt” at her stand.  We had ours with whipped cream and extra worms.  It was FANTASTIC.  A nostalgic, updated and even better.


We also ran into some friends who got the cheesecake bombs from James. I had a nibble and these were decadent and very, very good.


Our next stop was to divide and conquer Red Rooster (Marcus Samuelson’s Harlem restaurant) and Arancini Bros.


From Red Rooster, we had Berbere (an Ethiopian spice) Roasted Chicken, which came with orecchiette mac and cheese and a piece of corn bread.  The chicken was very moist and had a lot of flavor (somewhat curry like).  We asked if it had peppers (due to my allergy) and they said no, but we’re pretty sure it did.  The mac and cheese was very tasty.  Though I would probably skip this if I were going again.


From Arancini Bros, we had Sicilian Rice Balls.

They were a good side, and fried crispy without being greasy or thick.


One was Ragu with meat sauce and tomato, peas, mozzarella, and safron.  The rice was cooked well and it was full of flavor.


The other was filled with basil, pesto, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes.  This one was super duper.  Great flavor, just the right consistence, and the pieces of cherry tomatoes inside were the perfect addition.


By the time 2pm rolled around, the park went from being pretty open to being shoulder to shoulder packed, with very long lines, and a struggle to find a place to sit in the shade.


By this time, we noticed a line had formed at the Bacon Flight, so we assumed they were ready to go.  Well… they weren’t.  I’m not sure if people were just on line and waiting or if they were only serving a handful at a time, but the line didn’t move.  We were on it for over 45 minutes.  I grabbed a card while we were waiting and it explained the “flight” of 7 kinds of bacon, each from a different purveyor.


We finally got our bacon, and matched them up.  They were all pretty good, but VERY greasy and certainly not worth the long wait.  I was especially excited about this one, because come on… a FLIGHT of bacon!  It was a good thought, but not great in execution, both due to the length of time it took to get out and the overall taste once we did get it.  We did REALLY like the Maple Bacon though.  Crowd favorite.


By this time, we were beyond stuffed.  We walked around for a bit and noticed some amusing signs, including one that showed where the 15 minute wait section of the line was… just like Disney World.


There was also the Pizza Experience, but we didn’t make it there either.


And just before we headed out, we caught a glimpse of this hysterical note…


GoogaMooga was certainly a fun experience, and since it was a beautiful day, some of the annoying things weren’t too bad.   They really did a very good job at advanced planning, but the execution was definitely lacking.  They even made an app, which looked very good, but upon arrival, it didn’t work… and we didn’t have internet to be able to use most of it anyway.  The system not working meant we didn’t get to the beer/wine sampling tents after all, which I’m sure meant for a huge loss of money for those guys.  The lines were just too outrageous by the end, and we wound up leaving by 4pm (so we didn’t see the headlining musical act that night, The Roots).

The initial organization left some things to be desired as well, especially with the ticketing system.  They also didn’t announce the musical line ups until long after they distributed the tickets, and I may have selected the Sunday date had I known that Hall and Oates was playing tomorrow when I had to make the call about which date to go.    Also, they billed the event as being filled with famous celebrity chefs and events… and then weeks later announced that would only be included in the ExtraMooga package (at $250!)

Now a word on ExtraMooga… At $250, it should be pretty outstanding.  And yes, the celebrity chefs were a great incentive for an extra price, but $250 extra?  Seems a bit steep.  And it said it came with free tastings and drinks from a few restaurants (but I’m still not sure if that included all the stands… and they would still have to wait on the long lines even if it did).  One FourSquare tipster mentioned that he was upset that ExtraMooga ran out of food… no bueno!

Sadly, we were just too full and couldn’t try everything.  I would have loved the opportunity to try the soft shell crab sandwich from Vinegar Hill (the line wrapped around half the grounds by the time we got there) and I didn’t get to see if the foie gras donuts from Do or Dine lived up to the hype.

Oh and we all noticed that they did a great job on the number of porta-potties.  You never had to wait on line for the bathroom at least!

So if you are planning on going tomorrow, here are a few tips:

  • Get there early!  I would say as soon as the festival opens (11am) and tackle the food lines you want first thing.
  • Go to the ID booth and get your “Over 21” bracelet.  Some of the beverage stands distribute them as well, so you can kill 2 birds with one stone (Bracelet + Beer).
  • Check if the GoogaMoula is working. If it is, get that first.  The lines all day were hundreds of people long.
  • Get 1 portion of each food and split it with a few people, so you get to eat more.
  • Bring cash. The stands don’t take cards and the ATMs (which are on the grounds) charge $4… thems Vegas prices!
  • There is no cell service, phone nor internet… so if you separate from your friends, have a meeting place and time in mind or work on your smoke signals.
  • Don’t depend on the app to work.
  • Wear sunscreen!  We all got burnt, even though we had sunscreen on.

It WAS the first year… so we expected it to be a bit of a shit show.   Was it too much of a shit show that I regret going? Not at all!  The food is what I was there for, and the food was damn good. And it’s hard not to enjoy a beautiful day in Prospect Park, even if it’s on a long, long line.
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GoogaMooga: Live Blogging Today!

19 May

Today I will be live blogging from The Great GoogaMooga Festival: a huge food and music festival in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Some of New York’s best restaurants will have stands and we have the free tickets for today, Saturday.

Want to know if the foie gras donuts are mind boggling? Want to hear about the entire tent of sweets? Stay tuned to the NYCNomNom Facebook page for all-day pictures of the food.