The Dish: shrimp and scallops au gratin

The Location: Colorado Kitchen, 5515 Colorado Ave. NW, (202) 545-8280

The Price: $17.50

The Skinny: The two images tucked into a plastic tabletop display at Colorado Kitchen give you an idea of how Chef Gillian Clark spent her summer vacation: enjoying the many pleasures of the good ol’ U.S. of A. The tabletop pictures show Clark and clan posing in front of Mount Rushmore, just one stop in her 20-state tour that took the chef to the West Coast and back. Clark’s trip put her in a celebratory mood about the country, if this line in CK’s Sept. 6 e-mail newsletter is any indication: “Her aim…to make you feel like you’re looking at Mount Rushmore when the plate is set before you.” I can’t say that the shrimp and scallops au gratin made meet think of patriotic sculpture, but it did make me feel damn fine. Served in a shell-shaped bowl—a nod no doubt to the sweet bay scallops inside—the baked dish buries the mollusks and three perfectly pink shrimp (shells intact) in cream, Gruyère, and browned, buttery bread crumbs. With these fatty ingredients, the entrée is practically preordained to delight, but a surprising interaction occurs when you pair the crustaceans with the cream sauce. The popcorn-like flavors of the shrimp combine with the nutty, creamy flavors of the Gruyère to trick your tongue into thinking—no kidding—you’re eating cheese grits. The dish will make you think of Rocky Top long before that rock in South Dakota.