Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Great GoogaMooga Festival: A Review


Do you know what the Great GoogaMooga Festival is?  It's a real thing.  It's a real, awesome thing.

GoogaMooga is a food festival.  It is also a music festival.  The festival lasted 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) and was hosted in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.  Several well-known.restaurants, breweries, and wineries were present at the event.  Additionally, well-known musical acts (such as The Roots and Daryl Hall & John Oates) closed out the events each night.  General Admission to the festival was free, as long as you could score a ticket.  There was also an "Extra Mooga" experience that you could purchase for an obscene amount of money and you would have access to a bunch of really cool events with celebrity chefs.  I didn't take advantage of that because really, it was too expensive and I just wanted to hang out with some good friends and get a few bites to eat.

I showed up on a sunny Saturday afternoon to partake in the day's events.  The day's events included demos, presentations, and bands at various locations within the GoogaMooga grounds.  Upon arriving, one of the first things I saw was a huge and beautifully colorful cake.  Yep. That's right.'s not real...

The GoogaMooga section of the park was set up with various stations.  There was a wine tasting pavilion, beer tasting pavilion, a Burger Experience, Tony's Corner (restaurants chosen by Anthony Bourdain), Pizza Experience, Sweet Circus (desserts), Coffee Experience, Hamageddon (think pork and bacon products), and a Marketplace (assorted vendors).  There were other areas, but really, too many to list here.  But I think you get the idea.
The Googa Mooga Main Stage

Unfortunately, the line to get an ID was at least an hour's wait.  Since it was close to 80 degrees outside and my friend Kat and I were starving, we decided to go ahead and begin sampling the food.  Our first stop was the Marketplace. Kat led the way to the Sullivan Street Bakery station.  She picked up a tomato strecci (the prosciutto and mozz panini was already sold out at 2pm!) and we picked away at the delicious treat.

We got sidetracked for a bit because we needed to find another friend and there was next to zero cell service in the park, due to all the supporters of this event.  After 30-45 minutes of scouring the park in the heat, we managed to pick up said friend.  After such an intense experience, of course it was time to purchase more food.  One must keep up one's energy!

We meandered over to the enclosed Northeast section of the park, where we really had our hearts set on a Luke's Lobster roll.  However, as soon as we realized the line was out of control (aka would take about 30 minutes to get through), we changed our minds.  After all, we've all had Luke's fabulous lobster numerous times before.  I settled on a Char No. 4 Pork Fennel Sausage.  I only got a half serving since I was saving space for other goodies later on.  Yeah, it was amazing.  I totally should have gotten a full serving.

My friend Kat visited Maharlika for Filipino food and came away with a combo.  The combo consisted of grilled corn with cheese and shrimp paste mayo, as well as a Longga Dog, which is a sweet sausage also covered in the shrimp paste mayo.  To wash it all down, Maharlika provided a Mango Kalamansi water, which is a sweet and refreshing mango drink.

The new addition to our group, Saya, stopped by Kutsher's Tribeca and picked up a beautiful smoked pastrami on rye.  Along with a Mango Kalamansi from Maharlika, of course.

We chowed down on our food as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band jammed on the GoogaMooga mainstage.  They were kind of phenomenal.  They're definitely worth checking out on iTunes/Amazon/etc...

After hanging out for a bit, we managed to round up two additional members of the posse.   By now we were really starting to feel the heat.  Since we were tired, wanted great seats for The Roots concert later on and the lawn was starting to fill with blankets, we staked our own claim to a spot on the ground and relaxed for awhile.  Of course, it took only 2 minutes for someone to begin talking about dessert.

The Sweet Circus area contained the dessert vendors and so Kat, Saya, and I decided to head over there.  As we were passing the Marketplace once again, I realized that I hadn't yet explored the opposite side of the Market building.  I immediately spotted my favorite Brooklyn candy makers, Liddabit Sweets.  They have THE best sea salted caramels ever.  As in, ever.  And the maple cotton candy?  I die.

On Saturday, they didn't have any caramels for sale, but they did have chocolate honeycomb caramel popcorn available.  Yum!  It was scrumptious.  I was supposed to wait and eat it later on, but then I realized the chocolate would just melt in the heat.  So of course I had to eat it all right away!

We kept moving on over to the Sweet Circus, but once again we got sidetracked.  This time we were sidetracked by a beautiful fruit sculpture.  It says "The Great Googa Mooga".  Amazing.  I don't know who the artist was but this was pretty genius.

Finally, we made it to the Sweet Circus area.  Delicious sweet treats were in abundance everywhere!  Several of my favorite places were in attendance.  I puttered around, looking at everything in sight, and finally decided on what I should get...

 ...a Sweet & Salty Brownie from Baked.

OK, I also got a pineapple jalapeno popsicle.  That's much harder to take pictures of though.

After a long wait to purchase water to wash this all down, we all reassembled at the blankets and chilled out for an hour or so.  Then guess what happened.

We were hungry again.  I like to think of it as fueling up for The Roots performance.  Yeah...

What we really wanted was food from Red Rooster.  The line had been amazingly long earlier in the day so we figured now was the time to pounce.  Well, pounce we did not, because Red Rooster was already sold out of food.  As we were checking out other vendors' wares, Kat spotted macaroons at Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe in the Market.  Clearly we needed to check out this situation.  They had every possible flavor of macaroons available (can you see them on the chalkboard?) and everything looked so appealing.

After our macaroon stop, we ended up back in the Northeast section of the park, still looking for a last minute snack before the concert began.  Since most vendors were running out of food, we were down to a few selections.  Our friend recommended Red Hook for the arepas, so Red Hook it was.  After a half hour wait in line, we finally picked up two cheese arepas, drizzled a sour cream sauce over them, and returned to our spot on the lawn just in time for The Roots to make an appearance.

Let's talk arepas.  These things are good.  I've never had them before so I can't compare them to anything else that I've eaten, but if you can imagine two fluffy cornbread patties sandwiching a round of melted cheese, then that would be this.  Amazing.  And the sweetness and tartness of the sour cream completely enhanced this experience.

And The Roots were onstage! They were excellent.  It was my first time seeing them live and it was well worth the wait.  They started out with a fabulous tribute to Chuck Brown, a DC go-go legend.  Then they played songs that I knew and many that I didn't.  But that didn't matter because once you get into a good groove, it can go a long way.  You don't have to know actual words!

I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day, and just to put things into perspective, our day began around 2pm and ended at 8pm.  Overall, GoogaMooga was a really cool experience and I'm glad that I went, even though there were ups and downs associated with the Saturday event. 

Ups: Lots of really cool food options in one area, a variety of talented musical acts, and an assortment of food-related demos.

Downs: There were a ton of people at the festival which means that the lines to get an ID were super long (as in more than an hour's wait) and the lines to get food and water/beverages were long (as in at least a half hour's wait).  Many vendors also ran out of food relatively early in the day, which was a bit of a letdown since I couldn't try everything I wanted to.

There were a few other things that sort of worked against the festival, but were not actually the festival's fault.  For example, the heat of the day was unbearable at points.  Not GoogaMooga's fault.  Since there were so many people confined to such a small space, there was no cell phone service.  My friends and I nearly had a meltdown.  It was pretty sad to see adults almost cry over the lack of internet, Twitter, and text messages.  Miraculously, we survived.  Who knew?!

I heard Sunday went a lot smoother than Saturday did.  Obviously, they learned from our Saturday experiences.  I would expect that next year's GoogaMooga (will there be one?) will run even more smoothly.  All that being said, it was still a great idea and I think (hope!) it shed more light on a variety of music, restaurants and businesses in the NYC area.

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