Superfly, the organizers behind Bonnaroo, decided to test the idea that chefs are the new rock stars by launching a full-scale food festival in the middle of Brooklyn’s beautiful Prospect Park. With 75 food vendors set up to serve single item and signature dishes, and 65 brewers and wine makers on hand to help wash them down, The Great Googa Mooga was ambitious to say the least.
The Great Googa Mooga was well advertised in subway stations around the city and had plenty of star power to draw the nation’s biggest concentration of food snobs out for a weekend in the park on May 19 and 20. Admission was supposed to be limited to press, early email RSVP-ers and those willing to shell out $250 for the VIP Extra Mooga section. But with Saturday’s gorgeous weather serving as a beacon, it seemed like everyone in New York City was on the same schedule with one destination in mind, creating a perfect storm of impossibly long lines and vendors scrambling to keep up in an area of the park with very little shade and no cell service. (I guess all those angry Tweeters saved furious drafts to post as soon as they found a few bars of service again.) But Sunday turned out to be much more manageable and the festival seemed to learn from its opening day mistakes to make a nice recovery.
Vendors from some of New York’s most popular eateries like Blue Ribbon (with their famous fried chicken), Frankie’s 457 Spuntino, Roberta’s, Vinegar Hill House and Luke’s Lobster hosted booths with lines that weren’t much shorter than a table request at one of their restaurants. Other items on offer ranged from upgraded concession stand classics like Calexico’s roasted corn nachos to Do or Dine’s ridiculous $11 foie gras doughnut. Site-specific installations, like the ominous Hammageddon, became favorite meeting spots and scarred more than one Park Slope toddler for life with its from-the-depths-of-hell fire-farting routine.
There was plenty of beer on hand with some of the area’s local breweries putting their best pint forward. The wine tent provided salvation for those seeking shade but could just as quickly become your downfall with a wide variety of tasting options readily available and priced as low as $2. Because long lines prohibited immediate access, festival organizers encouraged guests to bring their own water to stay hydrated.
MINI Space readers should be well acquainted with Brooklyn’s badass butchers from The Meat Hook who were serving cole slaw and sauerkraut dogs as well as their infamous Long Dong Bud sausages. The guys also held impromptu contests to win an entire pig’s head and gave a demo on how to break down a whole steer. Mad scientist Dave Arnold was also on hand giving a live demo on constructing his Molecular Cocktails which are now available at the Booker and Dax bar inside the Momofuku Ssam.
There was no shortage of culinary star power at Googa Mooga where familiar faces like Tom Collichio and Marcus Samuelsson spoke at the Pagoda Stage as well as hosting booths from their world famous restaurants. Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s now legendary No Reservations, curated his own section of the event and spoke both days presumably on his favorite subjects – pork, tubed meat and himself.
The unlikely trio of Aziz Ansari, David Chang and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, whose GQ profile written by Brett Martin chronicling their food and drinking adventures in Japan recently won a James Beard media award, were on hand for a panel hosted by renowned food writer Ruth Reichl.
The crowd was a typical mix of Brooklyn’s foodies with cut off skinny jeans competing for space with cargo shorts. Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa and former Bachelorette turned NBC’s 1st Look host Ali Fedotowsky were just two recognizable faces we spotted.
Music at Googa Mooga covered a broad spectrum including novelties like Lez Zeppelin and Peelander Z as well as festival mainstays like The Roots, Charles Bradley & his Extraordinaries and everyone’s favorite yacht rockers Hall & Oates who closed out the event.
Outspoken chef Eddie Huang not only helped organize the festival and speak on panels but could also be found manning the Baohaus booth himself or wandering around the crowd rocking the only restaurant-related gear that quotes Mobb Deep and got its own post on Hypebeast.
Never one to mince words, Huang wrote a first-hand account of the festival from the vendor’s perspective for The Observer that does a good job of capturing their uphill battle and eventual victory.
In a bold move, festival organizers decided to offer refunds to those that weren’t satisfied with their Extra Mooga experience. A gesture like that can go a long way towards calming angry Yelp commenters and building good will for the festival’s future, which they seem very confident will continue. Gourmet food and drinks in a pristine setting with some good music in the background is always going to be a winning combination so here’s hoping they work out some of the kinks in time for next year.