The Great GoogaMooga isn’t looking so hot after getting a major beat down from Sunday’s decision to shut down the “rain or shine” event due to inclement weather 90 minutes after opening. Sure, people hopeful on attending the amusement park of food, drink, and music were disappointed at the cancellation, but that’s just the beginning.
Vendors (i.e. participating restaurants) had already set up, hired staff to man their booths, and prepped a ridiculous amount of food what what was expected to be a hoard of hungry attendees. With vendors suffering major financial loss (some reporting losses of $10-15 K) and what can only be deemed a second disappointing year in a row for The Great GoogaMooga, it’s future looks bleak.
Nonetheless, the good people at the Great GoogaMooga graciously provided me press access to the event. I actually met up with my good friends Matt and Rachelle at the event pre-rain on Saturday morning, and we tag teamed it up so we could sample and eat as much as possible.
Each within their own hand-painted booth, approximately 85 food vendors were spread across Neathermead, a large meadow within Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The festival was spaced out nicely, which is a nice change from other food events I’ve been crammed into like my fat butt in a pair of skinny jeans.
Pizza. Burgers. Meat. Meat. Meat. (and more meat). Sweets. There was something for everyone at the Great GoogaMooga. There was even some vegetarian and vegan love, although I did not partake.
It was actually partly sunny and dry when we first arrived right at gate opening time. We were some of the few to enjoy a precipitation-free couple of hours.
People brought their appetites and Prospect Park quickly became alive with the sounds of some fantastic live music from two stages (albeit a bit loud at times) and all the smells of all that glorious, glorious food.
This didn’t feel like just another food tasting event. The live music and outdoor atmosphere reminded me of one giant artisan food block party.
Okay, let’s talk about the giant elephant, errrr, pig in the room. I know, bad joke. I’m sorry. It’s late and I’m doing the best I can here. Henri, the two-ton 22-foot steel pig, nose-to-tail, drew me in to the Hamageddon pavilion.
You really can’t go wrong with having an entire food pavilion dedicated to all things pork. Henri isn’t just all looks, you know. He’s not just some piece of meat. He’s actually able to cook food from a fiery rotisserie in his belly.
Anyone else wondering what they are going to do with the Henri for the remainder of time now that the festival is over and done with? I wouldn’t mind taking it off their hands. It would make a great lawn ornament I think. My neighbors would surely appreciate its beauty.
So much pork, so little time! There was no way my stomach could try them all.
I’ve already been to Crif Dogs and The Meatball Shop and figured a visit to Pig and Khao and Porchetta would be easy enough the next time I’m in in the LES/East Village area. We decided to descend upon Baconland, which was exclusive to to this festival only.
And really, how could we not descend upon Baconland? It’s like the grown-up better version of Candyland.
The idea was actually pretty genius in its simplicity. An altar of seven different bacon producers, showcasing what they do best in one unbelievable tasting flight.
It was unreal how different each piece of bacon tasted. The nuances of smoke and cure came through instantly. I wanted to cry it was so good. I quickly imagined a life of being a professional bacon taste tester. How cool must that job be?
In case you’re wondering the bacon that was presented:
• The Meathook / New York / House Cured & Smoked
• Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse / New York / Applewood Smoked
• Burgers’ Smokehouse / Missouri / Applewood Smoked
• Benton’s / Tennessee / Hickory Smoked
• Surry Farms / Virginia / Dry Cured & Hickory Smoked
• Wellshire / New Jersey / Peppered & Dry-Rubbed
• Draymiller and Kray / Illinois / Goose Island Matilda Beer Bacon
Being that I was in a bacon-daze and my friend Matt did his research in precisely what his stomach wanted to accomplish this afternoon, I let him lead the way over to Tom Colicchio’s block.
Although we didn’t try the Pork Belly tacos (it felt overly gluttonous considering the flight of bacon just consumed), I couldn’t resist capturing the beauty of a spit stacked with pork belly, basting itself in its own juices as it slowly turned round and round.
We did, however, get the beef tongue pastrami sandwich from Craftbar. I actually didn’t have high hopes for the sandwich. Not sure why. It was, however, one of the proudest moments of being wrong I’ve ever experienced. Hands down, this was one of the best eats of the day.
The confit and cured beef tongue was so moist and tender. Topped with swiss cheese, beer mustard, and crispy potato chips, it was an irresistible sandwich.
Brooklyn’s Mile End Deli was just a couple booths down. We were quickly lured in by the man with the slicing knife, cutting through that beautifully smoked all-natural Certified Angus Beef Brisket.
The brisket had been dry-cured for 12 days in a house spice blend, and then smoked for 16 hours over white oak. Yea, I know. Be jealous.
A great sandwich, although I think Craftbar still edged them out… I’m not a fan of rye bread though, so it could have been that.
I was excited to try Back Forty’s harissa smoked lamb served over a pickled vegetable and quinoa salad with spiced yogurt. It sounded really good, but I think suffered from flavor overload. There was a bit too much going on in this plate. Still good and enjoyable though.
So much meat and so far no beverage. It was time for some drinkage. Brooklyn Soda Works was on hand, selling their small-batch handcrafted sodas on draft, all made with fresh seasonal fruit & herbs. The lemon-thyme soda sounded great…
I like lemon. I like thyme. I should have liked this soda. And I would have if there was more lemon flavor, but it honestly tasted like carbonated thyme.
My friend Matt and I looked at each other. We knew what each other were thinking… it’s burger time. And I really wish there was enough room in my stomach and dough in my wallet to try all the burgers, but neither were deciding to cooperate.
The Dumont Burger Sliders were underwhelming, although I loved the pickled onions idea. A note to friends and family: picked onions will now be served on all my cheeseburgers throughout the summer grilling season. Unfortunately for this burger, the supposedly beef with house marinade was flavorless and a bit overcooked.
The vanilla milkshake, however, really hit the spot.
Umami Burger caused quite a splash at their big debut at GoogaMooga. Opening up a storefront in the very near future in Greenwich Village, this was our first glimpse of the California-based burger chain.
Don’t let the minimalist look of this burger fool you. New York is going to love these guys big time. The flav0r-packed Truffle Burger immediately brought tears of joy to my eyes, with it’s house-ground patty unfused with umami master sauce and topped with house-made truffle cheese and truffle glaze. It honestly almost had a French dip feel to it. So good. If I had any more room in my stomach, I would have eaten about 3 more.
Pat LaFrieda is well-known for being the meat purveyor of choice for many chefs and restauranteurs. Needless to say I was pretty excited to try his steak sandwich, with reserve 100% Black Angus hand cut beef, Vermont monterey jack cheese, sautéed sweet vidalia onions and beef au jus on a locally baked and toasted french baguette.
Matt and I had no problem polishing off this sandwich, but the heavily predominant flavor of caramelized onions sadly masked any taste of the beef.
The free-range Buttermilk Dipped Fried Chicken Strips with honey dijon and BBQ sauce from Dirty Bird To Go was forgettable at best. The sauces were even less than forgettable. Next.
Let me introduce you to the Brookster and then you tell me if you think it sounds good. Ready? A chocolate chunk cookie baked inside a deep dark chocolate brownie. Sound freakin’ amazing, doesn’t it?! Okay, okay, how about this… a Sweet & Salty Brownie with salted caramel infused into a deep dark chocolate brownie sprinkled with fleur de sel. I know, I know, I couldn’t wait to dive in!
And these should have been good. Really good! I wanted it to be good. But disappointment would be a gross understatement. Despite the promise of “deep dark chocolate”, I had a hard time tasting any chocolate at all. I wanted ooey. I wanted gooey. I got bland and boring. What a bummer 🙁
I love Crack Pie. You may recall the Speculoos Crack Pie version I made a few months back.
Matt and Rachelle never experienced Christina Tosi’s addictive toasted oat cookie crust with goeey butter filling before, so it was a must for them to try it. I demanded it. On first bite, Rachelle’s eye literally lit up. Yea, that was the reaction I was waiting for. Rachelle cautiously and kindly asked me if I wanted any, but I knew the answer she was hoping for. Once you have one bite, you’re hooked. Sharing is not an option.
Wait a minute. Scroll back up, scroll back up. He looks familiar. Isn’t that the guy from The Next Food Network Star? I think it might…
Whoa yea it is! Meet Justin Warner, who was on hand at his “Do or Dine” restaurant’s booth, stuffing foie gras and jelly into doughnuts. Yes, you read that right. Foie Gras IN doughnuts.
I was super excited for this doughnut, probably more so than almost anything else at GoogaMooga. How do I say this. Uhm. Okay. Well, I wish I could say it was forgettable. But it was worse than that. Like really bad. Normally it takes a lot for me to not finish something, even if it’s less than great. But one bite was way more than enough of this disaster-piece.
Matt and Rachelle agreed. Apparently last year they said this doughnut was crazy good. This year though, it fell way short of bad. The actual doughnut, provided by Dough, was just a dense block of cold, dry, unappetizing dough. The ratio of foie gras to jelly was way off (more jelly was needed).
I’ve been really looking forward to visiting Brooklyn’s Do or Dine restaurant very soon. After this dismal display, I think the visit has been moved down my priority list.
I love sweets. With all this disappointment, I needed some dessert redemption. I found it at Robicelli’s booth. Their Car Bomb Parfait was superb.
Here’s another look of their Guinness stout brownie topped with Bailey’s ricotta crème, Jameson whiskey chocolate sauce, and beer nut praline. And at this point, my overloaded stomach threw in the towel. No mas, por favor! And considering it had just started to rain, we called it a day.
So let’s talk about the good and bad of The Great GoogaMooga. I’m not talking about their decision to cancel Sunday’s “rain or shine” event due to poor weather, causing major financial loss to participating restaurants and tons of wasted food (although apparently many restaurants donated their massive amounts of unused food to various charities). I’m not even going into the fact that they sent out an email only only a couple hours prior to that cancellation decision announcing that extra tickets were being released and available at the gate. There were obviously some major things wrong with how this event was run this year (and last year!)
The Great GoogaMooga is now 0 for 2 in the minds of many New Yorkers. Not a good batting average. I’m not sure if they are even going to be back next year, and if they are, would restaurants be crazy enough to sign up to participate. But if they do, here’s one thing to consider when mapping out what to eat.
Most of these food vendors you can just get up and go vist at their storefront. There is nothing special in eating their food here. On the flip side, you do have some unique opportunities to try food that is not readily available elsewhere. Case in point, Umami Burger, which gave us a sneak peek at their soon to be opened storefront in the Village. Or how about Pat LaFrieda, who typically is selling cuts of beef to chefs, not offering a finished product. Getting to dine at Craftbar for $12 is a heck of a lot better than the serious dough I’d have to drop on visiting their restaurant. There is definitely some good in attending the Great GoogaMooga.