The Great Googa Mooga was not a disaster! I went on Friday, as my friend Jen had bought tickets. We got there early, at about 5pm. It was super weird and fascinating and not a shit show. I have so many thoughts on this fascinating foodie renaissance fair. It reminded me of when I used to go to the Warped Tour on Randall’s Island in high school, but full of twenty- and thirtysomethings instead of teenage pop-punk enthusiasts. Some thoughts, below.
The security was super tight when we got there. They were moving really slowly, not just searching bags but making people empty them on tables and looking in everything. Guy picked up my eyeglass case, went “are there glasses in here?” and when I answered in the affirmative, he looked inside to double check. Then they had me tie a piece of tape on the strap of my bag and patted me down and we were in. It was confusing as to how they’d do this once people really started showing up after work. Seems like the answer is they just didn’t, according to a friend who arrived later in the evening.
The mood. It was weird but nice, I guess. First of all it was a gorgeous day, perfect temperature, lots of sun, obviously Prospect Park is one of New York’s great treasures. But there was also this prevalent mood of “something is about to go horribly wrong,” following last year. It wasn’t crowded, there was plenty of food and space and everything. But still, everyone looked really shifty-eyed and anxious in spite of everything going right at that moment. We weren’t hungry yet, but we felt like we needed to eat everything we could ASAP before everyone was out of food. Even though there was still barely anyone there.
The Mooga’s a dead zone. If a foodie has a duck corndog but can’t connect to Instagram to upload a picture of it, does it really exist? Seriously, this has to be a huge nightmare for the management. The amount of word of mouth promotion lost out on by not being able to access social media has to be just enormous.
The laughable “beer experience.” When you entered the Mooga, you came right to a tent where you bought tickets for beer and wine tastings, called “experiences.” You also bought one of those plastic Govino wine glasses for them to fill up, because, like, the environment, you know? We bought tickets for beer and wine that it turns out we didn’t need since the beer and wine “experiences” seemed pretty lame. At least the beer experience did, we didn’t really experience the wine experience. Basically there were a ton of breweries all set up and you’d trade these tickets for like a $4 taste or a $12 glass of beer. Which seems totally astronomical, since you could buy beer with cash at the regular beverage tents, outside the “experience.” If I never had a chance to drink craft beers in my day to day life I could see being really excited about this, but the fact that I can go to a beer bar in just about any neighborhood and have something that here would cost twice the price, did not make sense to me.
The Googa Mooga is really, really huge. It was epic. There had to be 50+ restaurants serving food, and it was so spread out, we thought we’d seen all the food and then more and more stuff would appear, there was stuff hidden in the woods, it was everywhere.
The portions were really, really huge. The conceit of having every restaurant serve only one item is smart, and it works well, and it lets you taste a lot of stuff. But not if the portions aren’t geared towards tasting. We ate some buttermilk fried chicken tenders (don’t know where from). There were good, but there were 8 of them. 8 big ass tenders is a lot for 4 people to split, if said people want to eat a whole bunch of other stuff. Pok Pok was serving their pad thai (disappointingly wayyyyyy too spicy) in a portion that could be dinner for three. For $10. Why not serve a quarter of that, for $5? I just want a taste. Another place was selling a half a lobster, which, come on guys.
The food was good, though. Things I ate: Dumont Burger’s sliders (perfect), James’ duck corn dog (really good if too lukewarm), a softshell crab sandwich (same lukewarm problem, which seemed to effect a lot of vendors that thought they’d get swarmed early in the evening but didn’t), those chicken tenders (really good, and I say that as a staunch anti-boneless chicken wing enthusiast), and M. Wells’ oysters bolognese. I love you M. Wells. Never change. Those guys are absolute geniuses of food that does not work on paper but is so fucking good that I can’t stop thinking about it for days. This was what it sounds like: oysters in bolognese sauce, served in its shell. It was hot and fresh and somehow not too heavy. Probably the best thing I ate was Salvation Taco’s cochinita tacos, three to a plate, perfectly portioned, perfectly suited to the weather and the mood. It was slow cooked pork, with some pineapple, and salsa and topped with some pork cracklins. Could have eaten 5 of them. Dessert was a People’s Pop and Big Gay Ice Cream. They didn’t have the truck, they were serving little to-go premade cups of cardamom ice cream with cocoa nibs in it and a vanilla with their bourbon butterscotch (I think?) sauce. It was really, really good. This was the first time I’ve had their new Ronnybrook base and I think it’s allowing them to really step up their game.
And there was plenty of it. Not sure what the story was on Saturday on Sunday—again, this was opening night—but, we didn’t have to wait in lines longer than 1 or 2 people, no one was freaking out on the service side, even once the place started filling up it was pretty easy going. My guess is the weather kept things quiet over the weekend, too. Not sure though.
Lexuses, everywhere! I’m not at all an anti-corporate sponsorship guy. But it was funny to be chowing down on sliders and high end chicken nuggets next to a Lexus that seemed to have been airlifted into the Nethermead. Also they were handing out Googa Mooga trading cards there (does anyone want to trade me for a rookie Hugue Dufour card?). That said, we spent a good deal of time next to the Lexus Yert. With its adjacent picnic tables and flower arrangements, it was like hanging out in the Mooga’s toniest neighborhood.
Terrible, terrible music performances. We arrived for the tail end of the Darkness, who were doing their best to entertain a mid-day, mostly disinterested crowd. More power to them. Then The Flaming Lips came out around 6 and performed one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. Every song was a downtempo bore, including some classics that are usually pretty fun tunes. I say this as a fan of theirs—I’ve seen them many times over the years, and while their live show has been a little repetitive over the years, it was never outright boring. This was not only boring, it felt like Wayne Coyne was aggressively trying to teach us a lesson. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were better, but I was so exhausted by the time they came on around 8:30pm that we left midway through their set. It’s a food festival, I guess, not a music festival, and boy did this music drive that point home. Still, where we were watching the show it was awful. Super crowded and claustrophobic. All those people streaming in finally caught up with the festival by the end of the day, I guess. Still, other parts of the grounds were still empty. One beer tent’s line was impenetrable; others were empty.
So, yeah! What a day. Like I said, fascinating. I don’t know what happened during the rest of the weekend, if rain kept people away, if nice weather would have led to another meltdown. I kind of doubt it. I wasn’t there last year, but this seemed like many or most of the kinks had been worked out.
Did you go? How was your experience? I’m so curious.