by Jonathan Vatner | October 01, 2004

Paula Fenner

Star caterer Paula Fenner

In August, the Columbia, Md.-based National Association of Catering Executives gave its Caterer of the Year award to Paula R. Fenner, CPCE, director of catering at The Adolphus in Dallas. Praised for offering an exquisite level of care when guiding meeting planners through the process, Fenner has been known on chilly days to warm up on-site planners with a steaming round of cappuccino. To reap the benefits of her expertise, we asked Fenner a few common catering questions.
    M&C: Smoked duck sounds great, but is it too strong for most palates?
    Fenner: We have found duck to be a popular appetizer. We do a terrine of foie gras and cured duck breast with a tart apple-and-shallot chutney on toasted brioche.
    M&C: Will attendees protest a lamb entrée? Should planners serve beef instead?
    Fenner: Definitely do not steer away from lamb just use it differently. I would incorporate it into a cocktail reception as Asian-marinated lamb chops; just make sure you offer the cute white sleeves for the bones. Or you could use it as an appetizer.
    M&C: Some popular fishes, like wild salmon and Chilean sea bass, are becoming endangered. Is there an edible, environmentally friendly fish?
    Fenner:  Chilean sea bass has been removed from the endangered list. Regardless, work with your chef so you always get the freshest fish. We have seen an increase in halibut and char, which is very similar to salmon.
    M&C: What do you think about coffee flavoring in chocolate desserts?
    Fenner: I would pair the coffee dessert with an orange sorbet, which works beautifully with the coffee flavor and also pleases the palate of non-coffee fans, such as myself. Everything works with food; it’s just how you pair it and present it.