Without a doubt, Ireland is the undisputed champion of all things that are best served cold in a chilled glass, but did you know that the world has an Irish man to thank for God’s second best gift to man (and woman) kind? Yes, the Irish invented milk chocolate, and this weekend is your chance to find out- and taste- more.
Killyleagh Castle, believed to be Irelands oldest inhabited castle, dating back to 1180, will be playing host to the Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival this coming weekend, Friday 23rd until Sunday 25th of September 2016. If, like me, Hans Sloane is a new name to you, then be prepared for a very brief crash course in the life of this doctor to the crowned heads of Britain, adventurer and most significantly, the granddaddy of our favourite sweet treat. Born in Co. Down in 1660, he found himself in Jamaica while a young man where he first encountered cacao, which the locals drank mixed with water. Finding this to be rather high on the yuck-side of the taste scale, he decided to add milk and sugar instead. The result was the birth of the glorious creation known as milk chocolate…. followed shortly by the invention of diet pills and New Year’s Resolutions to abstain from candy forever. During his medical career, he served as physician to three British monarchs, no doubt simultaneously extolling the virtues of a diet high in sugary treats, and after his death he had a number of streets and places named in his honour (Sloane Square being one). His lasting legacy, though relatively unknown, is without a doubt his contribution to the culinary world.
Now in its 4th year, thousands of food and chocolate lovers from across the country are expected to descend on Killyleagh Village to indulge in the joy of all things chocolate. Kicking off on Friday with the Chocolate Ball in a marquee within the Castle’s grounds, guests will be treated to a decadent, chocolate-centred menu, followed by live music. Saturday and Sunday will see visitors enjoy a range of chocolate displays and market stalls, along with family-friendly entertainment at the “Finnebrogue Artisan Hans Sloane Chocolate & Fine Food Festival”. Try saying that with a mouth full of Maltesers. For those among us with a slightly less sweet tooth, a line-up of leading chefs will be on hand to whip up a savoury treat or two from a live kitchen, hosted by Food NI.
The beneficiary of this year’s fund raising activities is the Cancer Fund for Children, a local charity providing support for children and young people affected by cancer, as well as their families. For further information and ticket booking, see www.hanssloane.com