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

By Julia Dowling Rutland and Lacey N. Howard
May 16, 2003

Celebrate summer with a poolside party featuring deliciousgrilled seafood. These appetizers are long on flavor and short onprep time. Guests tend to flock around the grill?who can resist thearoma? Keep a pair of extra tongs handy to let them join thecooking 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 soothingocean shades of blue and green and added a splash of sunnyyellow.

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

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

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

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

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

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