Shrimp and Scallop Kabobs with Mack and Myer’s
Might have fun, might not.
That was the sign outside Mack and Myer’s nightclub in Essex, Maryland.
My band, BootCamp, was the house band at Mack and Myer’s. In the music binniz, that means we played there almost every night. It was the ‘80s. The 1980s, not the 1880s.
Essex is a town outside Baltimore with a bad reputation; I’ve always liked the place. It has a singular charm. People in Baltimore make fun of people in Essex. Why? Maybe it’s because it’s on a river that has two, well, poop-processing plants right in the middle of the water. They look like two huge silver breasts, side by side, floating in the water, pointing to the sky.
They let off a stench that is hard to ignore. A HazMat suit or a gas mask might be in order while near that body of water. The river is named Back River. There is a bridge over those troubled waters, and right across that bridge was a club called Mack and Myer’s.
The club was owned by Dave Hutchinson. Dave was a cool guy; smart, funny and hip. He was one of those guys who was in the know, but a little offbeat. Dave embraced Essex and all its lowdown uniqueness. His brother was an elected official, an important executive for Baltimore County. My guess is that Dave was the black sheep.
When you walked inside Mack and Myer’s, there were all kinds of strange things hanging from the ceiling. Old wooden chairs. Trombones. Guitars. Old street signs. All kinds of junk, suspended by wires and string, hanging from the ceiling — which was only a few feet overhead. Mismatched Christmas lights were strung everywhere.
There was a jukebox in the corner. A real old-time jukebox. Dave had it stocked with every funny crazy old single ever released. “Yakkity Yak (Don’t Talk Back)”. “Along Came John”. “Sixteen Tons”. The jukebox also had songs like “Paper Doll’ by the Mills Brothers.
I loved the jukebox. I loved Mack and Myer’s. I loved Dave. And I loved Sophie.
Sophie was the waitress. She had a bee-hive hairdo of red hair that was so thick and lacquered with Aqua Net that you could have bounced bowling balls off her hair without so much as a dent. She had a thick Baltimore accent and called everybody “Hon.”
She was darling. Her favorite song was “Do You Think I’m Sexy” by Rod Stewart; so the BootCamp Boys learned the song. Whenever we did the song, Sophie would get up on stage and dance the hootchie-cootchie dance and sing off-key.
It was precious. She was precious. There was a band room in the back. One night, before a show, Sophie — a divorced cocktail waitress who lived down the street — ran her hands through my hair as I sat in a chair in front of her. The guys in the band were getting ready to go on.
Sophie said, in that lovely Baltimore accent, “Your hair is just like the hair on my *****, Hon! If I didn’t trim it, it would grow down to my knees!”
Forgive the language, but that’s the way she talked. That was so Sophie.
Mack and Myer’s was funky. It was eclectic. It was a crazy mixture of people — black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, intellectuals and blue-collars — who were all in on what seemed like an inside joke. Members of a crazy secret club.
It was a three-ring circus. Dave was Ringmaster. He called me “Boot.” As in BootCamp.
“Hey, Boot!” he’d scream across the club.
BootCamp started getting popular. Mack and Myer’s was packed every night. It went on like that for months and months.
Then we got an offer to spend the summer as a house band in a club that was on the beach – IN THE HAMPTONS. New York. Long Island. Movie stars. Seaside mansions.
We bought an old beat-up, yellow bread truck. No radio, no AC. We filled it with all our suitcases and equipment and we drove up the New Jersey Turnpike to the Hamptons. It turned out to be the craziest summer of my life. Everyone has one. That was mine.
The club was called Neptune Beach Club. We played six nights a week until 4 AM and did double shifts on Saturdays and Sundays. After all those hours on stage, BootCamp was getting pretty good.
When the summer ended, we drove back down the Jersey Turnpike in our yellow, beat-up bread truck; tanned and dead-tired. A peculiar stench told us we were getting close to Back River. We crossed the bridge and saw the Mack and Myer’s “Might Have Fun, Might Not” sign. The Boys Are Back!
Dave was outside waiting, beaming like a proud poppa.
We got out of the bread truck and Dave led us inside. He had us close our eyes. When we opened our eyes, we saw a huge sign, about 6 feet tall and 12 feet long, with big black letters on a white background. The sign took up the whole wall. It said:
NEW YORK CITY
Dave looked at us and said, “Whaddya think?”
We had no idea what the sign was about. That’s when Dave told us he’d re-named the band. Instead of being called “BootCamp” we were now –
NEW YORK CITY
We explained to Dave – we’d been playing all summer in New York as BootCamp, we had videos on MTV, labels were interested, managers were calling, and a name change might not be the best idea in the world. We kept our name.
Dave kept the sign up anyway. We kept playing Mack and Myer’s, but not quite as often as we used to. It was still packed whenever we played; but we were starting to get lots of other gigs.
We were opening for Split Enz and Squeeze and the B-52s. We started playing other clubs, drawing 500 people on Monday and Tuesday nights. We were doing showcases in Manhattan for major labels.
It was time to move on. Dave knew it. We knew it. We said a sad goodbye to Sophie, Dave, Mack and Myer’s, Back River and the Poop Processors. We crossed that bridge and took off for the Big Time.
BootCamp never quite hit the Big Time. For about five years, we came as close as you can come; we were constantly on the brink, but never quite hit the Big Time. But we had a great time trying.
A few years later, I was at the airport in Baltimore. I had just flown in from a Slim Man gig. Things were going well. It was late at night, and there weren’t a lot of folks around. I was facing the baggage carousel when somebody tackled me from behind.
We fell to the ground. The guy had me in a bear hug. We started rolling around.
Dave. Scared the shit out of me. We got up, and Dave smiled at me. He was a tall, burly guy, with a beard, curly sandy hair, laughing eyes and a distinguished voice.
He thanked me. He thanked me for the good times. He thanked me for the money I’d made him. He told me Mack and Myer’s did so well while BootCamp was there, that he was able to relax for quite a while. Then he gave me a hug.
Might Have Fun, Might Not.
We had fun.
A ton of fun.
When you make this dish, make sure your scallops and shrimp are not from Back River.
I love grillin’. I love chillin’. This is one of my favorite grill dishes because there’s not a lot of fuss. You know what I don’t like about grillin’? When the food you’re grillin’ falls through the grill and onto the charcoals. That’s why I like kabobs. When you put your food on skewers, not only do you keep things from falling onto the charcoal, but they’re a lot easier to turn over.
If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them for in water for 30 minutes or more. If you don’t they’ll catch fire and burn down the trailer park.
I skewered the vegetables on one set of skewers and the seafood kabobs on another. Why? Because the vegetables take longer. Also, when grilling, a little non-stick cooking spray (or olive oil spray) helps a lot. Spray your kabobs lightly before grilling.
Note for my peeps – there are two kinds of sea scallops, dry and wet. Use dry scallops. Wet scallops are soaked in who-knows-what, and throw off a lot of liquid when cooking. I don’t use wet scallops. Ever. Ask your fish dude – he’ll know whether the scallops are wet or dry. Use the dry ones. Make sure you remove the small side muscle from the scallops. It’s about the size of a postage stamp, just peel the side muscle off, it should come off easily.
8 large shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined
8 sea scallops
¾ cup cream sherry (you can use sweet Marsala or port as a substitute)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon each of fresh grated ginger, fresh minced garlic, fresh chopped thyme (or dried thyme)
Some hot sauce, baby this evening
½ Spanish onion
1 yellow bell pepper
8 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Here we go…
Rinse off the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Rinse off the scallops and pat dry with paper towels until the towels no longer get damp.
For the marinade
Combine the sherry, the olive oil, the ginger, garlic, thyme and hot sauce (to taste). Add salt and pepper to taste and mix ‘em up. Let it sit for a while.
For the vegetable kabobs
Cut the Spanish onion and the yellow bell pepper (remove the stems and seeds) into pieces that are about the same size as your cherry tomatoes.
Take a piece of onion, put it on the skewer, followed by a cherry tomato and a piece of yellow bell pepper. Then add another piece of onion, a tomato, a piece of pepper. Your skewer should be full. Make 4 skewers.
For the seafood kabobs
Take a shrimp. Pierce it with a skewer, going through the bottom of the shrimp, and then through the top. Then add a scallop—pierce it through the side. Add another shrimp. Then a scallop. That’s 1 skewer—2 shrimp and 2 scallops.
Heat up the grill! Set the heat to medium, and when the grill is nice and warm, add the 4 vegetable kabobs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, and then turn.
Put the seafood kabobs on the grill.
Now, while the seafood kabobs cook, pour the leftover marinade from the baking dish into a small sauté pan and reduce over medium-low heat while the kabobs cook.
When the seafood kabobs have cooked for 3 to 4 minutes, turn over. Cook for another 3 or 4 more minutes, until done. The seafood and the vegetable kabobs should be done around the same time. Remove to a platter, drizzle with the reduced marinade, and…