Poolside Panache

Inspired by the ocean, our appetizer buffet invites guests to dive in.

Celebrate summer with a poolside party featuring delicious grilled seafood. These appetizers are long on flavor and short on prep time. Guests tend to flock around the grill?who can resist the aroma? Keep a pair of extra tongs handy to let them join the cooking fun. Here are some simple ways to ensure success.

Coordinate plates, flatware, serving platters, and linens. Choose a palette of no more than three colors. We selected soothing ocean shades of blue and green and added a splash of sunny yellow.

To prevent tablecloths from flapping in coastal breezes, weigh down the corners. Buy weights, or make your own nautical versions with beachcombing finds: Tie shells or starfish to ribbons, and then stitch or pin the ribbons to the tablecloth's edges.

Have fun with color. Use multihued flatware, or mix solid and patterned plates-a great idea, especially if you have more guests than plates in one particular style.

At poolside gatherings, keep a cordless vacuum cleaner nearby in case of accidents.

Use umbrellas or awnings to shade guests. Besides keeping guests cooler, they'll cut down on the squinting and the sunburns.

Have sunscreen on hand in case your guests neglect to slather it on before coming over.

Remember food safety: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. On really warm days, set platters and bowls on crushed ice.

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