© Luke Andrews

Tips from BNC 2016—and master host—David Barzelay.

Lucy Madison
April 06, 2016

Having a meal at San Francisco's Lazy Bear is like going to the best, most over-the-top dinner party in town—and for good reason. Before he opened it as an actual certified dining establishment, chef David Barzelay, one of Food & Wine's 2016 BNCs, was in the habit of going really, really overboard throwing dinner parties for his friends. "I went so overboard that I opened a restaurant," he said. Fast forward a few years, and Lazy Bear is one of San Francisco's most exciting spots in town, serving up modern American dishes to a rotating crowd of the city's most intrepid diners. 

Here, Barzelay gives us five tips for throwing an unforgettable dinner party: 

1. Start the evening with a batch of cocktails. "Batching cocktails is always awesome," says the Tampa, Florida native. "Make some punch—or, say, Manhattans in a tea pitcher—before your guests arrive. It makes things easy on the host; you don’t have to run around making cocktails. It also allows people to drink as quickly as they want to. At the restaurant, we start everyone out with punch ladled out of a vintage punch bowl. We want to put drinks in people's hands as soon as they arrive, which tends to dispose them pretty well toward the evening."

2. Plan a meal you can prep in advance. "I don’t know that I was ever the best at planning out the food for my dinner parties. I tended to overreach, which meant that I was cooking the whole time my guests were there," says Barzelay. "So my advice would be, in retrospect, don’t do that! Make things you can mostly prepare in advance that then have just the right amount of a la minute finishes so that they feel really fresh and vibrant in flavor. But get as much of the work done ahead of time as you can."

3. Feel free to go overboard. "At the same time, don't be afraid to try new things," he advises. "Make sure you impress your guests! Lazy Bear arose out of me going completely overboard at dinner parties. It's the most overboard dinner party. I think that can be a good thing. It means that that you won’t have the most relaxed time at your party, but I get more satisfaction out of my guests having a really amazing time and being impressed than out of my being relaxed."

4. Mix up the menu. "I think people really like to eat a lot of variety, a lot of flavors, so it's good to have a number of dishes available to try," Barzelay says. "It's probably not necessary for most people to get super complicated with their menus, but we're not minimalists at Lazy Bear."

5. Keep the party going after the table is cleared. "After-dinner drinks is the most fun part of the night," Barzelay says. "You never want to kick anybody out if you can avoid it. Let your guests linger. I love dessert wines. l like dessert wines probably more than non-dessert wines, so I always have a few good ones open and available. Even if only for me to drink."