“She has to shred the sweet potato, then mix it with the brown sugar, coconut milk and butter. Hardly anyone makes it this way anymore.”
Rhondine Craig was talking about the potato pone, a Belizean pudding dessert that is the lovechild of sweet potato puree and pecan pie filling. Her Aunt Lollet is responsible for the labor intensive recipe.
Craig is the general manager of Dit’s, one of Belize City‘s oldest restaurants. The potato pone is one of their specialties. I eyed it with as much interest as winning the lottery. It sat oozing its caramely goodness on to the plate.
Located south of Regent and Albert on King Street, Dit’s was founded 58 -years ago by Craig’s grandfather Donald, grandmother Edna, and her great aunt, nicknamed “Dit.” A soft-spoken kind woman, Rhondine took up her current role, upon the recent death of her father Walter Craig.
“I am a third generation owner.” said Rhondine. “I am proud to be making my family proud.”
Everyone in Belize City knows Dit’s, and ex-pats living in the US have their families stock up on their baked goods before travel.
Dit’s has had the world come to its door, literally and figuratively. “I can remember when my dad told me they had 5-feet of water in the bottom of the restaurant during Hurricane Hattie.The ocean came right through the door and it took forever to clean out the mud.”
Hurricane Hattie leveled more than 50% of Belize city. The Dit’s building stood strong and became a center point for the neighborhood.
In addition to attracting the power of mother nature, Dit’s is a favorite to locals and backpackers alike. “We have always had fair prices and make good food.” said Craig. Dit’s kitchen cranks out meals from breakfast to late night, and houses a store front pastry counter.
Want to learn the local sweet culture? Head to Dit’s for your vocabulary lesson. It is loaded with desserts only found in Belize. Their motto is catchy: “It’s nice to be important,but it’s more important to be nice.”
Notes from a not-so-reluctant frosting swiper:
I went to Dit’s and sat down about an hour before my scheduled interview. I wanted to have some lunch and get a feel for the place. I asked for the special which was homemade spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and salad. The portion was huge. The sauce was rich and homey: a mix of comfort and deep flavor.
The salad was fresh with really red ripe tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, an across-the-board standard in Belize. It never ceases to amaze me to contrast what I am so often served in the US; tasteless mealy white slabs that try to pass for tomatoes. Produce is REALLY fresh here……but that’s more for another story.
I ordered a piece of the Caramel cake that was so large an fluffy that it could be heard calling, “Eat me!”
I swiped the frosting and in the way that caramel can be chewed and melted, I let myself enjoy the flavor. Rhondine shared the recipe:
Dit’s Caramel Frosting
2 – 3 cans heavy sweetened condensed milk. Do not confuse this for evaporated.
Remove paper labels from cans.
Place cans UNOPENED in a dutch oven. Pour water over cans and cover by 2-3 inches. Bring water to boil and let it roll for 4 hours. You must make sure that the cans are covered with water the whole time. Add water if needed. Cans need to be covered so that they do not burst.
Remove cans from water with tongs and place on a cookie rack to cool. Chill in fridge. Open cans and you will have a soft caramel, perfect for spreading on cake or using as a ice cream topping. 2 cans makes enough to frost an 8″ round cake.