I ventured from lower Manhattan to Prospect Park this past Saturday with all intentions of enjoying myself at The Great GoogaMooga, an unfortunately titled food and music festival featuring some of New York’s biggest, baddest-ass culinary luminaries: Blue Ribbon, Spotted Pig, Char No. 4, Co., Colicchio & Sons, Luke’s Lobster, The Meat Hook, Roberta’s—over seventy A-list vendors ready to serve a discriminating crowd. This was the festival’s inaugural year, its first crack at becoming a welcome-to-summer institution, a chance to satiate palates both rugged and refined, and a venue for all to experience Brooklyn at its most food-obsessed. But like a maple-cotton-candy-on-a-pretzel ($5), it turned out to be initially enticing—but ultimately unsatisfying.
My adventure started auspiciously enough. The Googa Gods had shined down upon Prospect Park; the sun was out on a clear, bucolic 74-degree day. I had, however, arrived on the wrong side of the park and was forced to ask a laconic cop for directions.
I could not wrest the words “Where is The Great GoogaMooga?” from my mouth. So instead, I asked him, in a low mumble, where “The Festival” was.
“Yeah, yeah, that Gunga Munga thing? Take a right on 16th, you’ll see it.”
I entered the park and came upon a large fenced-in expanse of Nethermead Meadow. Smoke billowed from dozens of cheery, Old West-style vendor stations emblazoned with names like Bacon Land and Foie Gras Doughnuts. Police barriers contained a shuffling line of prospective attendees as a ‘90s cover band blasted hits that nobody necessarily need hear again (is anyone dying for a 311 revival?). I arrived at the entrance and presented my ticket. Entry was free but you still needed a ticket with a QR code. You could also pay $249.50 for “ExtraMooga,” which entitled you to a separate entrance, special VIP dining areas, prime concert seating, and access to a lounge where it was promised you could brush elbows with the likes of Chuck Klosterman and Patton Oswalt.
I passed on that and headed into the plebian entrance. I was then presented with a staggering line for ID Check, necessary for the procurement of adult beverages.
So, a sober day in the park it would be then! There was also the option to invest in “Googa Moula,” a pre-pay system that streamlined the beer-and-wine process, but it seemed like such a haphazard operation that I chose to soldier on.
On the main stage, Pedro Martinez was playing muted Cuban beats. Scores of hungry attendees waited patiently in lines that stretched up to 50-deep. April Bloomfield’s Spotted Pig Burger was the most in-demand, ‘natch.
At this point I realized that chronicling more than a few personal culinary experiences might take hours to accomplish, so I decided to simply take pictures of other people’s hard-won food instead:
A gregarious girl’s Roberta’s Pizza.
A mellow dude’s Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken.
A stressed mom’s Luke’s Lobster.
An affable girl’s Pickle-on-a-Stick from Eat Me Sweetly.
A proud server of Crawfish Monica.
Hefeweizen in an unidentified sport sandal.
Despite the well-chronicled vitriol in re: Artisanal Brooklyn and its evil, pushy, narcissistic breeder population, the crowd seemed overwhelming good-natured, kind and, dare I say, eerily docile? Perhaps because they, too, were sober and weak from hunger.
Yet there are always some fascinating, mildly irksome standouts. Why is there is always a guy with a hula-hoop at outdoor festivals? What’s the connection? I guess it’s just fun and “anti-mainstream” kooky, like joss sticks or a hacky sack. Behold the pure childlike wonder on this 37-year-old man’s face:
And hey, it’s the cast of "Girls"! Ha, just kidding. I actually don’t get HBO but figure they must look somewhat like this.
Hold up… naked guy? Finally, someone’s shaking things up! Upon further inspection, he was actually wearing flesh-tone shorts artfully obscured by the police-barrier/dining stand.
Goth-Queen parasols also seemed to be a trend.
As were Excessively Photogenic Guys.
And some Good-ol’-Bros for good measure.
Chef Coolio was in the house!
This guy was stationed here the entire time.
By far, the highlight of the day was witnessing a slaphappy crew delightfully digging in to a pig face. Yes, a literal pig face. They had apparently won this Saw III-reminiscent prize in an arm-wrestling competition at The Meat Hook’s station. Please note this brave gentleman extracted an eyeball from the pig’s face to imbibe.
It looked rough going down but he was a good sport.
I left at 4 p.m., before the scheduled sets of Holy Ghost! and The Roots. I heard via Twitter that GoogaMooga had run out of beer and wine at this point but were trying to resolve this situation. I posit that the first year of any festival of this undertaking must naturally be a bit of a hit-or-miss experience and that the organizers certainly meant well. And perhaps things got better when the sun went down. But alas, I could not stay. I had a reservation at Corton that night. It was delicious.
By the way, I was tempted to buy a $15 GoogaMooga plastic Spork to commemorate the occasion. But not tempted enough.