Fondue, good food, dogs and horses

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Staff at Stone Soup

I read in the Tryon Daily Bulletin that local restaurant Stone Soup was offering a fondue cooking class. “Fondue?” I thought. That was something I hadn’t thought about in years. It sounded like fun so I called and registered for the class.

When I arrived, everyone was comparing notes on stored away fondue pots and fondue memories. Suzanne Strickland, owner of the cozy restaurant, was ready with recipes and handouts. She put us to work slicing bread and cutting up fruits and vegetables.

We were now ready to begin “fondue-ing,” and started with a melted cheese concoction, dipping bread and assorted vegetables into the pot and filling our plates. Next came the meat course. The pot was filled with oil and brought to a hot enough temperature to cook big chunks of tenderloin.

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Meanwhile attendees at the long table took the time to ask questions, to share names and backgrounds, and basically just enjoyed the camaraderie that a fondue dinner seems  to foster.

The afternoon concluded with the delicious fondue chocolate dessert course. What could be more scrumptious than pound cake, strawberries, apples, and pineapples covered in warm, decadent chocolate?

Preparing to leave, I had an opportunity to chat with Suzanne, the owner and oft-times chef at Stone Soup for 13 years. Having owned my own business for many years, I always enjoy learning about women entrepreneurs. I make a plan to visit with her and hear her story.

It’s a sunny morning and we settle at a table under a sprawling tree next to her new dog park. We can enjoy a conversation while Ellie, her faithful canine companion can romp with friend, Reilly, brought to play by owner Bill Lambert.

Suzanne grew up in Coral Gables, Fla. and attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. But Florida just never felt like home to her. At age 23 she made a list of everything she would like in her environment. The one location that met all her requirements was Boston, Mass.

Suzanne had never been to Boston but she made up her mind that Boston was it.

“I arrived October 2, wearing a car-coat and sweater, $500 in my pocket, and took up residence at the YWCA while securing a job,” she laughs as she remembers her arrival. “I froze that winter.”

After a stint at the Bank of New England, she wanted something a little less corporate. “I was young and learned early on that I really wasn’t a corporate type person,” she explains. “So I began a sales career with an office furniture company. I had studied commercial interior design, so was able to use my talents.”

“Then at about age 30, I decided to take riding lessons and discovered my love for horses,” she smiles. Realizing that having a horse in the New England climate was difficult, she knew she would need to relocate and discovered the Carolinas. She continued her career in office furnishing sales, traveling in North and South Carolina plus Tennessee.

Suzanne had learned to cook at an early age in the kitchen, helping her mother, who enjoyed entertaining.

“But I drew the line when she asked me to peel grapes! Can you imagine the time it takes to peel grapes? But my experience cooking with my mother was a good start towards my future of owning a restaurant,” she continues. “I studied cooking at Greenville Tech and decided to open my own business. But it wasn’t going to be a full service restaurant. I opened it as more of a market. It was to be a place to get coffee and baked goods, specialty ingredients and take-home meals.”

As customers enjoyed her delectable offerings, they encouraged her to transform the market into a restaurant. Stone Soup, as the restaurant many of us are now familiar with, was born. “I’m dedicated to producing fresh meals, prepared here from scratch, and using local ingredients as much as possible,” she tells me proudly.

Being an entrepreneur, Suzanne is still evolving her business model. Now, she has added back the market concept.

She describes, “Wednesday through Saturday, customers can stop and pick up prepared foods like Chicken Divan, Baked Ziti, Chicken Florentine, and Shepherd’s Pie. Also, we have pastries and chocolates from French Broad. Soon we will be carrying breads from Standing Stone Breads. Plus we’re open for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. featuring three different eggs benedict, French toast, a traditional farm plate breakfast, along with several other tempting offerings.”

Her newest venture is the Landrum Dog Park, adjacent to the restaurant. And what makes this perhaps the most unique dog park around, is that you can call an order into the restaurant while spending time with your dog, and they’ll deliver it to you. What could be more fun than letting your best friend run around without a leash, while you enjoy lunch or a cup of coffee and a cupcake?

Remember the “Art of the Horse” project this past year? Being a horse lover, this was one of Suzanne’s favorite undertakings. Some of the colorful horses can still be seen adorning special locations like the Landrum Library and FENCE. “We’re doing it again this year,” Suzanne tells me.

Another event that she has guided the past few years is the Carolina Foothills Food and Wine Festival.

“We’re taking a break this year. The Art of the Horse is quite a complicated, time consuming, endeavor, so we decided to concentrate on that alone this year,” she tells me.

With a new entrance and deck added off the parking lot and the warm spring days, I hope to soon enjoy a scone or muffin for breakfast outside on the porch, or take an afternoon break with a cup of tea or a smoothie. When I’m having a busy day, I’ll stop by for a take out dinner. And I’ll be sure to sign up for the next cooking class.

For more information visit or call 864-457-5255.