Launceston and the surrounding region, including the Tamar Valley, has a remarkable summer climate. Daily maximums are consistently in the mid to low 20s (Celsius), rarely dropping below 20oC and rarely making it above 30oC. On average, the region’s maximum is a couple of degrees higher than Hobart and a couple of degrees lower than Melbourne, while those two cities have summer maximums that fluctuate markedly, quite often dropping below 20oC and often approaching 40oC. In addition, Launceston has more sunshine hours than either city during the summer months. If you are interested in the comparisons, see: Tasmania Climate and Melbourne Climate. The evenings do cool off more though, but it can still be very pleasant and calm outside way past sunset.
All of this means that we can plan events at Olive’s Cottage with confidence for summer and for the months either side.
On our previous visit in December we caught up with various Windermere neighbours but also met some new ones and reacquainted ourselves with a couple who were great friends of my parents. We were keen to keep the associations going. We had a four day visit planned for late February, so we invited them in for drinks and nibbles for the day we arrived. Many of them had never visited the cottage nor seen the gardens and the view.
Nibbles and drinks over five hours
We were flying in on a Thursday, landing early afternoon, and we had asked the neighbours to arrive from 5.30 pm. We could spend an hour shopping in Launceston and then hope to be at Olive’s Cottage by 3 pm or so. We needed nibbles that would be tasty but easy to prepare, and we needed to have plenty as we weren’t sure how long the guests would stay for or how hungry they would be.
As it was, they all arrived within a few minutes of each other and almost all were still there after 10.00 pm. There was plenty to drink and fortunately we had enough to eat. The evening was perfect and, as we sat on the deck, we watched the day transform from late afternoon sun, to twilight, to sunset, then into floodlit trees.
These were the nibbles we prepared from scratch as finger food or dips:
– Baguette slices spread with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon, capers and dill
– Antipasta salsa that included semi-dried tomatoes and grilled eggplant
– Leeks in a creamy Camembert sauce
– Shanklish salad of feta, tomatoes and onion
We give the recipes in the next blog post.
In addition to the above, we had on hand plenty of crackers, some cheeses, some terrine, mixed olives and extra bread. Soon after our arrival at the cottage our next door neighbour popped in with a dozen of his home-grown tomatoes. We sliced them into a bowl with some crushed garlic and served them on top of squares of toast, with olive oil drizzled over the top. One couple brought some bunches of just-picked purple grapes. And half way through the evening one of the neighbours went home to cook their planned evening meal and returned with a platter of seared prawn cutlets! And we drank wine ranging from Tassie sparkling, to French rosé, to Barossa red.
Was it with reluctance that gradually people stood up to walk a hundred metres or two to their homes along the road?
A bonus outing: Concert in the Park
Our hospitality was repaid in a number of ways that weekend. Very special was two lots of neighbours taking us into Launceston on the Saturday night to see Symphony Under The Stars with the TSO (Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) in City Park. There would be about 10,000 in attendance and so other friends of theirs had arrived early afternoon to secure vantage spots by laying down blankets and ground sheets. Like the rest of the crowd, we turned up with low slung chairs, and coolers full of picnic-style eatables. And bottles of wine, of course!
It was a wonderful experience, not just from the playing of the TSO but also from the attentive buzz around the park. The crowd was clearly knowledgeable about music and respectful of those around them.
With a perfect night again, it truly was “symphony under the stars”.
For the recipes, as promised, see: Nibbles for the Neighbours