Usually festivals are associated with dancing, drinking, eating occassionally, music, friends and generally lots of movements and being active, with minimal focus on food. The first Googa Mooga festival, held in NYC’s Prospect Park on Saturday and Sunday, was exactly the opposite. A festival with 120% focus on the food and -20% on movement.
We had been looking forward to this 2-day food bonanza festival for weeks. We’d organised our schedule on the Googa Mooga iPhone ap, made a detailed eat-a-thon plan of attack, were excited to try the ‘Doc Poms’ ale made especially for the occasion by the Brooklyn Brewery and sourced a themed dress just for the occasion. So on the beautiful sunny Saturday morning we hopped on our bikes (for the 45 minute cycle, earn some needed food credits) to Prospect Park.
After post-festival cycling, reflecting and debating, here is a breakdown of the key highlights and lowlights of the day. This is first time the festival took place, it was to be expected that there were going to be several teething issues to be sorted out over the duration of the festival. Keeping that in mind, here is a list of highlights and lowlights from the day.
Highlight: The valet parking system – cycle your bike to the festival and have it parked securely for you. Brilliant. Not to mention the super friendly staff, free bell, and free cycling map. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
Lowlight: Googa Mooga was being advertised as the best that NYC had to offer in the way of food, and yes, the best of the best restaurants were represented (Vinegar Hill House, ABC kitchen). The rule was that every food vender provided one option. However, instead of allowing each restaurant to showcase what they were best known for, it seemed that most venders when for the option that was more about yield, ease, and crowd pleasers and less about pride, experimentation and education – a good opportunity to try something different on the masses, missed. We weren’t expecting molecular gastronomy, but a little more innovation and less deep frying would have gone a long way.
Highlight: The range of refreshing ‘home-made’ beverages, lemonades, watermelon juices and organic iced teas, satisfied the craving for a cold beverage when the beer line was unfathomable.
Lowlight: Fried chicken everything. Literally everything. The fried chicken to salad ratio was 100:1. The lack of any type of salad option, its 27 degrees! Do people not crave something light and fresh (especially after eating deep fried protein all day!). It seems as though the majority of people think that pickles = green, therefore counts as salad.
Highlight: Lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster in matching dress.
Lowlight: Waiting in lines. It was one big line fest. Wait in line for your bag search, wait in line for ID check, wait in line to get drink tickets, wait in line to get a drink, wait in line to wait in line. The festival sold 40,000 tickets and only signed up 75 food venders (which means that if each person ate 1 item per vender, every vender would need to produce 533 items).
Highlight: Frankies home-style meal (that wasn’t a sandwich!) of polenta and meatballs – delicious but not entirely appropriate for the 27-degree heat!
Highlight: Great food education seminars, the first (and only talk we managed to catch, missed the others due to waiting in lines for food) was a talk and demonstration by Dan Klugaer from ABC Kitchen on about sustainable eating and seasonal cooking.
Lowlight: Not enough of the food seminars and not nearly enough focus or attention on them. For a festival boasting to be for the ‘food enthusiast’, it seemed it was more for people to go and consume rather than go to be educated.
Looking back – Googa Mooga was a great idea and a very interesting insight in to the ‘food culture’ that is taking New York, and the world by storm at the moment. Festival organiser Rick Farman said that the team worked really hard to correct a lot the issues they had on Saturday for the event on Sunday; ID was checked with tickets, the drink ticket system was dropped and all bars accepted cash making lines shorter, which aided in making for more relaxed festival goers and a more enjoyable day all round.