Quick Note: The E.I. Sugar Shack is now the Swansboro Brew Shack Coffee and Desserts Shop, located where else but in nearby Swansboro. Revised contact information can be found at the end of this post. Same great owner and products and Terri just told me they now offer their dry mixes so you can recreate their delicious goodies in the comfort of your own home.
I always find it amazing that sometimes I come across great gluten-free find in the most unexpected of places. I have been traveling to North Carolina pretty frequently to visit family and never thought I would be able to find half of the gluten-free options that I have. From well-stocked stores to fantastic restaurants to bakeries. Oh, and I am not talking about the larger metropolitan areas but rather the beautiful Eastern Carolina coast. So, I have been hitting the area from Wilmington up to New Bern looking for great gluten-free finds when I am in the area.
On my last visit I was contacted by a bakery on the gorgeous Emerald Isle to come and sample their gluten-free products. Actually this bakery does sugar-, gluten-free, and regular items as well. So one beautiful morning I headed out to the Isle to check out the Emerald Isle Sugar Shack. I was not quite sure what to expect as I had driven on the road it sits on many times but never noticed it but Terri, the owner, was so friendly in our e-mail and Twitter exchanges I knew I had to stop-by – oh, and the fact that she mentioned something about a new gluten-free item they were working on. I was intrigued and quite frankly hungry that morning so was ready to see what they had to offer.
The E.I. Sugar Shack is in a normal strip mall type building just off the road and from the outside you have no idea what you are in for. When you walk in you are instantly transported into beach mode. Fun seating areas and decorations make you feel more like you are in a beachside café than a storefront (the actual water is located behind and across the street from the store). As promised, Terri was there to greet me and took to the display cases towards the rear of the store. She told me before I came to be sure to tell her exactly when I would be coming because the gluten-free items sell out fast.
The cases were filled with gluten- and sugar-free options as well as items for those with no allergies. You almost felt like you were in an old time bakery complete with glass covered domes housing samples for all to try. Terri explained that everything is made from scratch and she experiments with various ingredients to get items to turn out the way she wants. I ended up purchasing quite a few items to take with me (and some delicious gifts from Terri) and I will talk about those in a moment but the main event had to be something I had never even heard of before – gluten-free or otherwise – CAKE BALLS.
Yes, you read it correctly. Sweet little balls of gluten-free goodness enrobed in chocolate shells. Think petite fours in a more rounded shape. Now Terri mentioned she was working on the gluten-free versions of these when we corresponded and I was so eager to give these a try. She said she came across them while traveling and they had a huge following. Terri had mini samples on the counter and I did not hold back. From chocolate to carrot cake to Reese’s, I worked my way through the range and each one was better than the next. I ordered a bunch of the full-sized options to take with me and enjoy later that evening. What’s nice about these little treats is that you have a couple (or in my case way more than a couple) and you are not overly full but you feel like you had a real treat.
I was so impressed with all of the gluten-free offerings I wanted to be certain to take some samples with me to try out throughout the course of my visit. I ended up with a slice of decadent chocolate cake topped with a caramel sauce, quite possibly the best carrot cake muffin I have ever had piled high with cream cheese icing, an apple spice muffin (fabulous), two huge chocolate brownies that were so moist they made me weep, a smorgasbord of cake balls, chocolate chip cookies, and a loaf of sandwich bread. I also picked up some sugar-free shortbread cookies for my mother (who said they were they best she had come across).
What’s nice about the Sugar Shack is that you can pop-in, grab a coffee and sweet treat, sit down and enjoy it or take it with you. The prices are the lowest I have come across for homemade gluten-free baked goods and you can mix and match until your heart’s content (just want one cupcake, not a problem, a slice of the cake, you got it). Terri is just so nice you cannot help wanting to stay and chat. She mentioned she is working on developing a way to provide mail order service for the cake balls in order to find a method that will protect them on their journey. Be sure to check out there Web site and if you find yourself on or near Emerald Isle be sure to stop by and treat yourself. Oh, and be sure to say “hello” to Terri for me.
The Swansboro Brew Shack Coffee and Desserts Shop is located at: 714-6 West Corbett Avenue, Swansboro, North Carolina 28584. Phone: 910.325.7409