governor's island // art, noms and a view

Friday night, we watched Hector and the Search for Happiness, a delightful comedy about a psychiatrist traveling the world in - you guessed it - the quest to find out what makes people happy. (We also ate a deliciously improvised pasta dish topped with parmesan and asparagus au beurre - see below.)

The morning following this inspiring movie, we're ready for an adventure of our own. My mom has been dying to discover Governor's Island, which I have gone to twice to attend the New York City Poetry Festival. With this ideal weather, we take the 4 train to Bowling Green and catch the ferry to Governor's Island, which is located on the Southern tip of Manhattan. Because it's Mom's first time, I give her the grand tour, clockwise (I like to start with art and end with food).

First, we witness a special rifle shooting demonstration in the occasion of Civil War Weekend. It was pretty cool to see a dozen men dressed in 1863 war outfits load and fire their guns, just as they would have back in the day. And if you're into canons, the island also has weekly canon-shooting demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

We then head down to the Nolan Park area to visit a few of the art exhibits, located in charming, though often run-down, 18th century homes. The two most memorable we see are "Picture This: New Orleans", renown photographer Mary Ellen Mark's last collection of works, and "Escaping Time: Art from US Prisons". We're especially interested in "Escaping Time", which features selection of pieces produced by talented prisoners throughout America, as my parents are firm believers in ending the economically and socially devastating "War on Drugs". I deeply encourage you to learn more about the Safe Street Arts Foundation, the admirable organization in charge of the exhibit. Did I mention all these art shows are completely free?

Continuing our clockwise tour of the island, we pass through Parade Ground and walk through the super fun Billion Oyster and Organic Growth pavilions, two installation pieces that won the 2015 City of Dreams Competition, which you can learn more about here on Figment.

Forgot to bring a picnic? Governor's Island has so many food options, you'll most likely end up not bringing your own on purpose. From Thai curry bowls and Mexican burritos to Belgian waffles and Brooklyn-made gelato, your cravings are covered. My mom is drawn to Veronica's Kitchen, a Trinidadian booth whose dishes sound, smell and look divine. The line is not too long, but the wait is. We don't mind, though, as it's fascinating to watch the head cook (presumably Veronica herself) preparing her fried plantains before our eyes. (If you're getting a little dizzy from the heat while you wait, keep cool with fresh coconut water from an actual coconut bought from the adjacent eatery - which is exactly what mom does.) My mom sticks to the classic jerk chicken, which, for $8 comes with generous portions of two sides. She picks the rice & beans (again, a classic) and those same plantains we just witnessed being prepared (impossible not to). I opt for a pumpkin roti ($8), which I'm very well aware my choice is not in the least Trinidadian (rotis are Indian, in case you've never heard of them), but I've been meaning to try one for a while. We spread out picnic blanket onto a nearby field and enjoy this scrumptious meal. Veronica's chicken is nice and tender, and my pumpkin is perfectly sweet.

Dessert is inevitable. Though the carrot cakes from Fauzia's Heavenly Delights look tempting, it's a bit too hot for them at the moment. We instead decide on ice cream, and get a large cup from the island's own organic ice cream shack ($6). One scoop of cookies & cream, one scoop of salted caramel - both fantastic! We savor them as we fill out a few grid of extra-difficult mots fléchés (French crossword puzzles), and then read our respective books of the moment. I'm still in the middle of Anna Gavalda's Des Vies en Mieux, and it's still great.

Before taking the ferry back to Manhattan, I show Mom my favorite view of the city, the one you get from the North side of Governor's Island. It's a humbling reminder of how privileged we are to live in such a beautiful place.

On our way home, we stop by Whole Foods to get the ingredients for a pea soup and ratatouille. Mom prepares the pea soup when we get back (the ratatouille is saved for the following evening). It's super easy to make, and perfect for the summer. You can find her recipe - and my photos - here on her blog, Facile by Cécile. We enjoy it while watching Girl Most Likely, a cute comedy starring Kirsten Wiig, Darren Criss and Annette Benning.

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