We’re not the type of gals and guys who need an excuse to eat ice cream. But if there’s one especially great reason to enjoy sundaes and cones of frozen goodness with friends and family, it’s summer. But instead of the typical barbecue or brunch and mimosas on the patio, we’ve put together an old-fashioned ice cream social that’s equal parts easy, pretty, festive, and crowd-pleasing.
We started off by getting in touch with our new snack BFFs at SoCo Creamery, crafters of decadent, flavor-packed, small-batch ice creams made with all-natural ingredients. They’re pretty sweet on us, too, so they hooked us up with an armload of flavors, from classic Lemon and Raspberry sorbets to signature flavors like Dirty Chocolate, Salted Caramel, and Mint Chip ice cream. Does it get much better than this?
We think not. Stay tuned for even more about SoCo on Friday. Trust us: you don’t want to miss this one.
Ice cream at the ready, we got down to the serious business of choosing toppings and sauces. You can go a little crazy here, depending on the flavors you’re serving; think dried lavender buds, blueberry coulis, buttered popcorn, crushed graham crackers, chopped pretzels, or balsamic vinegar sauce. But we decided to stick with the most versatile of the classics: fudge and caramel sauces, whipped cream, multicolor sprinkles, fresh strawberries, peanuts, slivered almonds, and, of course, maraschino cherries.
The key to making even basic toppings feel special is to put them in pretty bowls or dishes in a variety of sizes and styles. Here we opted for a mix of square white plates, white dipping bowls, white ramekins, and white soup bowls with a bright turquoise rim.
Once we had a basic palette established, we started layering the decorations. Indoor/outdoor placemats are a must for an ice cream social—any drippings wash off with a brush and a hose, or a rinse clean in the sink—so we chose some with fun summery stripe, including aqua, to pick up on the color in our bowls. This allowed us to get creative with some of the other elements, like plastic spoons, scoops, and straws in juicy hues.
Though we’re willing to break out the melamine dinnerware and plastic utensils for an outdoor party, there’s one barbecue tradition we’ll never be able to get behind: disposable paper napkins. Why bother, when linen or cotton napkins are sturdier, are reusable and machine washable, and come in tons of colors and patterns? Using linen napkins allowed us to pick up a bright, fresh coral from the placemat palette in a second eye-catching pattern. We alternated these with solid white napkins to keep the pattern play from going over the top. A bright bunting strung up in back and a couple striped indoor/outdoor poufs for extra seating, and we were good to go.
As guests arrived, we had them dig right in. Remember to set your table in an open spot, rather than against a wall, so guests can access it from all sides. This will prevent the dreaded sundaes-and-sprinkles bottleneck. You do not want to see these ladies when they’ve been kept from reaching their favorite snacks.
Each guest was able to assemble her own bowl. Some kept it simple, with just a couple scoops of ice cream and a single topping, while some went wild with multiple flavors and a bunch of toppings. This is one of the most fun parts of an ice cream social (followed closely by second helpings), so encourage creativity, flavor experimentation, and idea sharing. And keep a bowl or glass of plain water on hand, for rinsing the scoops between ice cream flavors.
As you might have guessed, the reaction was unanimous.
Annie even joined the party with her own double-scoop sundae.
Putting together this ice cream social was so simple, and the concept is so universally appealing and fun, that we can’t wait to host our next one. July 4th weekend, anyone?