Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Host: An Ice Cream Social

A couple of weekends ago, I threw an ice cream social for all of our friends to say goodbye to summer!  I thought this would be a great way to have an inexpensive party, but I didn't realize it would be so low stress!  We held the party from 2:00 - 4:30 pm on a Sunday afternoon.  This allowed Mr. 3 and I to go to church in the morning and also spend some time together post-party.  We had a great time visiting with our friends and enjoying our delicious ice cream.  I only spent about $65 for 10 or 12 people and it was by far the easiest party I've ever thrown.

The Decor

I went back and forth a lot with a whole bunch of ideas on how to dress up the apartment.  I debated everything from weaving streamers and attaching it to the ceiling to creating a whole backdrop like you see at those fancy pants weddings.  BUUUUT most of the ideas seemed way too ambitious and the backdrop would have been expensive to do up right.  So, I decided to work with what I had and focus on serving better quality ice cream instead.  I used my oh-so-perfect-for-my-red-and-gold-chairs table cloth and my existing mish mash of clear glass cake plates and glassware.  I lined each cake plate with a doily leftover from my wedding.  I already had the spoons leftover from Bible study and I had picked up the straws and napkins earlier in the summer from Home Goods (it's always a good idea to nab these things when you see them if you like them!).  I found Meri Meri ice cream cups at Sur la Table on clearance for $3.50 when I went to the cooking class with Mr. 3.

The Food

Ohhhhhh the ice cream!  A few years ago, Mr. 3 found this wonderful roadside ice cream shop called the Moo-Thru in the middle of nowhere Virginia.  If you are local, it's the big red barn looking thing on the side of 29 South in Remington, VA.  It is hands down, the best ice cream I've EVER had in my life.  I wish I could find stronger words to tell you how much I looooove this ice cream.  The Moo-Thru is owned by dairy farmers who live right down the street and all the milk for the ice cream comes from their own cows.  The whipped cream is REAL and they also sell milk in glass jugs (it's the way God and nature intended milk to be...where the cream rises to the top and you have to shake it to blend it in).  Everything there will put the fat on your butt.  HOWEVER, unlike other ice creams, this is worth the extra zumba time.

Now that you have a better understanding of the yumminess of the Moo-Thru, you can see why I would spend $35 on 4 quarts of ice cream - pumpkin, strawberry, cookies and cream, and cinnamon.

For toppings, I bought REAL whipped cream (sadly, in the can from Trader Joe's and not from the Moo-Thru), caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, Magic Shell (a must!) maraschino cherries, sprinkles, toasted coconut (leftover from another dish), mini Reese's, M&Ms and crushed Oreos, Heath Bar, and Snickers.  All of the candy, except for the M&Ms, came from fun-sized bags that are sold at Halloween.  The M&Ms were from a larger one pound bag because I knew I needed more M&Ms than the fun size bags or the regular sized bags they sell at check out and it was also cheaper.  I bought a six-pack of root beer for floats and I also made a batch of brownies for sundaes using a mix (which was the only thing I cooked for this party).

The Set Up

Mr. 3 picked up the ice cream on his way back from a business trip and I made the brownies the night before the party.  Mr. 3 also cut up all the chocolate candies while we took a break from cleaning the apartment.   We filled up the small bowls with the crushed candies and covered them with Press & Seal before throwing them in the fridge.  Everything else was set-up the day of the party.  Because we had to worry about the ice cream melting, I put out the toppings about 15 minutes before guests arrived and didn't put out the ice cream until we had 3-4 guests.  I kept the ice cream, soda, and whipped cream in a beverage bucket loaded with ice to keep these items cool.

Since this was a laid back Sunday afternoon party, I just let people hang out where they pleased.  We had plenty of room and seating (especially with the addition of my new chairs!).  I also made the ice cream self-serve.  I didn't want to scoop and I also didn't want anyone to feel awkward about asking for more scoops.

Tips & Ticks to Take Away

1. Serve high quality ice cream.  Unfortunately, not everyone has a Moo-Thru, but many towns have a local ice cream store of some kind.  Take advantage of it if they offer homemade.  The trick is to serve something that you aren't likely to find at a children's birthday party (I'm looking at you huge vat of store-brand Neapolitan in a bucket!).  I've also noticed at the grocery stores around here that there is a huge variety of ice cream from small, almost "craft" style brands.  Serve those instead of the generic or mainstream brands.

2.  Spice it up. Serve a couple of "safety" flavors with a few odd balls thrown in, but don't serve plain vanilla or chocolate.

3.  Check your candy prices, because this is where you can turn an inexpensive party into a pricey ordeal.  For me, chopping up the fun sized bags was the way to go.  Not only did I have enough for the party, but I saved the leftover crushed bits to throw into cookies for Bible study aaaaand I had enough wrapped candy leftover to hand out at Halloween.  Also, go to Target or Walmart.  The prices are so much better than the grocery store or drug store.

4.  Offer variations for people to make more than just a scoop of ice cream with some toppings thrown in.  My brownies and floats were a big hit!  Other options might be banana splits or cookies (who doesn't love a chipwich?).  Offering brownies or cookies also gives people who might have lactose intolerance something to eat while everyone else spoons up some ice cream.  If you want to turn it up a notch, why not serve boozy milkshakes?  You'll have to stand by the blender for the first few minutes, but people rarely eat more than one sundae, milkshake, split, etc. so you won't have to worry about manning the blender the whole time.

5. After the first round of ice cream gets served, put it back in your freezer so it doesn't melt.  Make sure to announce that people can go for seconds or thirds, but you just put it away to keep it cold.

6.  Borrow scoops from friends so no one has to wait for the one scoop in order to dish up their ice cream.

7.  If possible, send people home with an insulated bag with leftover ice cream.  Leftover ice cream is dangerous.  It only takes one bad day at work and a quick glance in the freezer for an ice cream binge to happen.  We sent one guest home with two flavors.

8.  Keep water on hand either in a pretty pitcher or small water bottles.  WHY does ice cream make people so thirsty?

This party was so fun and easy to plan.  Besides cleaning and shopping for toppings, we really only had to bake the brownies and chop up the candy.  Everyone had a great time and really enjoyed the ice cream.  I know this seems like its only good for a summer party and fall is definitely upon us, but have you ever gotten a craving for ice cream in the dead of winter?  It's so weird, but it does happen.  THEN, there are those people who will happily walk around with a double dipped cone while there is snow on the ground (the Chancellor of my undergrad was well-known for doing this).  With that in mind, I could totally see this being a very fun halfway to summer party!  Hope everyone has a great weekend!