If you're ready to have fun at your own parties, listen to Linda Vail. The author of Dining on Deck: Fine Foods for Sailing & Boating says it's all about planning. "I tend to prep ahead, so I can enjoy the party with my guests," she says. "You can buy all of the beverages ahead of time, make bread, and do the shopping. A few days before, you could make any pâtés or dips."
A sumptuous example of a make-ahead dish is the Chilled Roast Tenderloin of Beef. While it cools in the refrigerator, the mustard and horseradish flavors meld together, sealing in the beef's juices and flavor.
Try Marinated Shrimp and Olives to add diversity to your menu. "Guests always appreciate variety," Linda says. Bite-size Walnut-Raspberry Cookies provide a sweet ending to a relaxed night with friends.
Whether she's entertaining a crowd or a small group, Linda always invites guests who share similar interests. "Then make sure everything is organized and in place, so you're not running around at the last minute," she says. "With a little forethought, a festive cocktail party is deliciously simple." ―Nick Phillips
Recipes adapted from Dining on Deck: Fine Foods for Sailing & Boating (Williamson Publishing Co, 1986).