For the past few years, Hosea Rosenberg, who won the Top Chef title -- and $100,000 for his victory -- on Season Five of the Bravo reality show, has focused his time on growing Blackbelly Catering, a full-service events and catering company that sources most of its ingredients from Blackbelly Farm, Rosenberg's leased, five-acre parcel of land in Lafayette, where he grows produce and raises five different breeds of pigs, several herds of Blackbelly lambs, plus chickens, ducks and rabbits.
And in 2011, when Rosenberg, with the help of Bitter Bar owner James Lee, launched Blackbelly Catering, part of the plan was to also open a restaurant. "We're actively looking for a space, and this time next year, we'd love to be cooking -- and serving -- 90 percent of what we raise and grow," said Rosenberg, when I interviewed him in November of that year.
The search for the right space took longer than expected, but Rosenberg finally inked a deal in January, and in mid-July, pending permits and construction timelines, he'll open Blackbelly Market in Boulder, in the same complex as Wild Woods Brewery and withing walking distance of several more breweries, including BRU, Fate, Avery and Upslope.
"I chose this space because I needed to expand the catering aspect, and there's a huge production kitchen that will allow me to do that, plus I've wanted to open a butcher shop and market for years, and this building is perfect for both of those -- and for opening a restaurant," says Rosenberg, who took over the vacated Minglewood restaurant, a 3,300-square-foot plot that also lays claim to two patios, which will accommodate fifty seats in addition to the 85 inside.
The market, which will face the front door and include a butcher counter flanked by white tile, will "feature the meats that we raise on our farm, along with livestock from other local sources, and you'll be able to order fresh cuts of meat -- pretty much anything off a pig, lamb or cow -- along with a vast array of housemade sausages like chorizo, andouille and breakfast sausage, as well as salumi and special order cuts," says Rosenberg.
A glass-enclosed, refrigerated cutting room to do in-house whole butchery, along with a grab-and-go menu, complete with salads, soups and sandwiches, will be a part of the market's quarters, as well. And Rosenberg divulges, too, that Rocky Mountain Institute of Meat founder Mark DeNittis is consulting on both the charcuterie and butchery programs.
The restaurant, says Rosenberg, will have an open kitchen with counter seating, along with a glass-and-steel charcuterie cabinet on display in the dining room. And his menu, he adds, promises to be an "ever-changing, seasonal, farm-to-table roster that will revolve around whatever produce we're pulling from the earth that day and meats that were cutting on any particular day." Rosenberg, who notes that's he's currently planting spring produce in his greenhouse, says, too, that while he'll have a core menu, he'll also serve quite a few specials. "We'll definitely do a kick-ass burger, fresh pastas and other contemporary American dishes that are rooted in seasonality, and we'll do chalkboard specials every day, as well," he says.
The beverage program, which will focus mainly on local beers -- specifically beers that are brewed nearby -- will initially benefit from the knowledge of James Lee, owner of the Bitter Bar and a former partner in Blackbelly Catering. "James is helping me consult on the bar program, and along with a few amazing signature cocktails, we're really going to try to tap into, no pun intended, the beers that are neighbors are brewing," says Rosenberg, who also notes that Lee will consult on the mixology program.
And in return for Lee's expertise, Rosenberg is consulting on the Bitter Bar menu, and he's also using the Bitter Bar kitchen as a recipe test kitchen while he waits for Blackbelly Market to open.
Rosenberg and his staff have done some of the demolition themselves, which, he says, has been therapeutic. "We ripped some dividers down, and we've done a few other construction-demo things, and it's been really fun and cathartic beating up this old restaurant and making it our own," admits Rosenberg.
And even though he's knee-deep in building a new restaurant, Rosenberg is continuing to expand his catering business, and within the next few weeks, he'll also roll out a Blackbelly food truck, which be bought two years ago from the late Jeff Parr, who unexpectedly passed away late last December. Rosenberg is currently getting the truck wrapped, and while it may hit the pavement as early as next week, it'll definitely be parked at Upslope on May 17, when the brewery hosts its music festival. And for as long as the truck rolls, a portion of the proceeds from the truck's food sales (think grilled cheese with pork belly and apples and tater tots smothered in green chile) will be donated to a college fund for Parr's children.
The truck, however, is nameless, so if you have suggestions, post them in the comments section below. If Rosenberg chooses the name you submitted, you might just win a prize.
When Blackbelly Market opens, it'll serve lunch and dinner to start with; weekend brunch will follow within a few weeks, and breakfast, says Rosenberg, is also on the horizon.
"I've had such great adventures over the past few years from going all over the world and cooking, but it's not sustainable and I need a home base, plus I miss the vibe of the restaurant world," says Rosenberg on his return to a professional kitchen. "It was an awesome break, but I'm ready to get back on the line -- it's about time."
Rosenberg shared a handful of artist renderings of Blackbelly Market, which are below.