Dara writes:

There are certain restaurants in this city of ours in which it is pretty okay to hold a poetry workshop. Boqueria, the jolly new tapas joint on West 19th Street, is not one of them.

Aimee and I needed a moderately-priced place to eat that was not too far downtown and not too far east, where we could also exchange a few poems over dinner. Since I had recently read the review of Boqueria in New York magazine, I knew I would be sitting on a stool, probably at a communal table, in the midst of a lively bar atmosphere. But hey, poetry sometimes requires livening up. Plus, Aimee and I both appreciate good food, and we wanted to check the restaurant out.

Once our groping under the table finally yielded a lone hook on which we could hang our purses, we could relax into our stools (an oxymoron), and concentrate on wine and verse. We ordered two glasses of Spanish white, quail egg and chorizo on toast, squid, lamb, and, just to test the authenticity of the place, patatas bravas. A large and somewhat intrusive table of four parked themselves next to us at the communal table, and then a strange thing happened. They ordered after us and yet their first tapas plates came out before ours.

And then their last little plates came out before ours. And then their entree-sized plate appeared. Aimee and I hadn't seen each other in a bit, so we were absorbed in talk--but also, finally, hungry. Just then our waitress arrived to let us know there had been a mix-up, and the server had given all our dishes to the adjacent group!

One point of information: if I got four dishes I didn't order, I might not just eat them as though I had!

We got our dishes, and they tasted good, although the lamb was undercooked and sent back and then the server brought it back--to the adjacent group! I literally had to say, "excuse me, but isn't that the lamb we ordered?" Running interference with dishes does not enhance my dining experience.

As spicy as the aioli accompanying the potatoes was, as lemony and olive-slicked as the squid was, as meaty and sinful as the egg yolk-coated chorizo was, the pieces together did not win me over as a meal. Alas, they are not supposed to. Tapas are supposed to satisfy a light hunger before dinner, or soak up alcohol afterwards. Remind me only to use them for that purpose!

Aimee and I were able to exchange poems, by the way. But I did notice that the callow couple next to us who had annoyed me when they blatantly laughed in the waitress' face because they "had the giggles" vexed me exponentially more when they gaped at our para-literary interaction and burst out in hysterics.

Chide you will that I should have known better than to stage a mini-MFA in a tapas bar. Yet isn't the Spanish tradition the literary equivalent of poetry: compact and dense with meaning?