It wasn't held in a field in the middle of Tennessee. But there was an area dedicated to pork beer from Brooklyn Brewery and plenty of live music for the first ever Great GoogaMooga fest held in Prospect Park last weekend.
Dubbed an "amusement park of food and drink," the festival, organized by Superfly (the madmen behind Bonnaroo), combined the best local chefs, craft beers and wines from around the world, and live music. Unlike their other events, the music took second stage to the food.
General admission tickets were free and sold out immediately (though available for purchase on craigslist). ExtraMooga, VIP tickets, could be bought on the day of the fest for $250. A steep price, but it included unlimited beer, wine, specialty cocktails, and food.
And it turned out, many of the demos and discussions with the celebrity chefs were only accessible with the ExtraMooga pass. I suppose the VIP access might have been worth the hefty cost, especially to avoid the initial chaos that came with GA access.
Even if we couldn't watch Morimoto breakdown a fish, the sausage-making session with Adam Kaye from Blue Hill,was both funny and informational. Keeping raw meat cold in the hot sun was a challenge he valiantly conquered.
Unfortunately, much of the buzz from Saturday was about how poorly it was organized. Long lines, confusing ticket/cash policies and apparently many vendors ran out of food early. The biggest complaint was the lack of cellphone service. That portion of the park was a dead zone. Apparently people can't simply have fun without informing everyone they know just how great a time they're having with a play-by-play account on Facebook or Twitter. Most of the kinks seemed to be worked out by Sunday. All the vendors took cash, few vendors sold out and people seemed to be enjoying the warm weather. An AT&T hot spot even helped with the dead zone. And, despite what some people claimed, the helpful GoogaMooga app on my iPhone worked quite well.
But enough about what went wrong, I'm sure you want to hear about the food.
The foie gras and jam-filled doughnut at Do or Dine is my new breakfast of champions. We followed that with a brisket taco from Hill Country and a Magic Hat (the Brooklyn festival beer was sold out of the drink kiosk on Sunday). A long line for the softshell crab sandwich at Vinegar Hill proved daunting and sold out early. Oh, well. Only the wait for a Luke's Lobster Roll was longer. But with several outposts throughout the city, it wasn't worth it. (Don't get me wrong, they make a fine roll for the price, but I can get one two blocks from my apartment.) Instead, we tried the duck sausage from Craft, a must after watching sausage being made. It had a smoky flavor, but could have been larger.
In the Hamageddon section, devoted to pork products, Charlie Smith was roasting a whole pig, stuffed with garlic and apples. The contraption, designed and built especially for the fest, was disassembled and transported from Atlanta to New York. When asked if we'd be lucky enough to taste the pig later, Charlie told us that he was trying to get it hot enough to finish cooking. We're still wondering who got to eat that pig and when...
Fortunately, Dinosaur BBQ's freshly pulled pork sandwich was piled high and readily available all day. Or you could try the Porchetta sandwich on a sourdough roll, which packed a powerful flavor punch for its small size. Then there was the popular bacon flight -- until it sold out.
Craving some red meat? Try the burger station. Spotted Pig offered the same Roquefort topped burger on their regular menu. With shoestring fries.
Though there were few vegetarian options, there was easily something for everyone's taste buds. Including sweets.
Unfortunately, there were still some problems with the beverage options. The beer tent was out of most everything and pricey for the small pours. The drink kiosks were a much better deal, if you could maneuver through the absurd line process. The wine pavilion on the other hand offered tastes of several wines for a decent price; a glass cost about the same as the drink kiosks, but much better.
You might be wondering why I haven't mentioned the live music. Maybe because it was a new event and free. Most of the bands were lesser known and not great. The world air guitar champion drew a bigger crowd, mostly for his attire, or lack thereof -- a man wearing a loincloth is always entertaining.
The exception was the Roots, the quintessential Brooklyn favorite, who played on Saturday. Fitz & the Tantrums and Hall & Oates played on Sunday. The irony of hearing Rich Girl surrounded by a homogenous group of Brooklyn hipsters was not lost on me.
Even if it wasn't perfectly executed, it was a great effort and you didn't have to stay in a tent overnight to enjoy it. If you missed the Great GoogaMooga, you'll have to wait a whole year for the next one. In the meantime, there's surely another food/music fest going on somewhere near you this summer.