Meet Rachel Bradley
Mastermind behind Sigona’s flavor-infused balsamics & olive oils
By Christine Thompson
Ask her to pick a favorite and she says, “Oh, that’s like asking me to pick between my own children!”
She’s Rachel Bradley, wearer of many hats at Veronica Foods, the company we work with that directly sources and purchases the best balsamics and olive oils from small estate olive ranches. At the company, Rachel is responsible for the R&D behind the flavor infused oils and balsamics, such as the newly released Pumpkin Pie Spiced Aged Golden Balsamic you can get for free Oct. 13-19th with your coupon when you spend $30 or more.
Though she’s proud of all the flavors, she does have a favorite. It’s the flavor that was the most finicky and required more attention than others during development: the dark chocolate balsamic. It’s made using a combination of three different chocolates and adds a deliciously unique twist to Rachel’s Turkey Mole recipe.
Rachel is the daughter of Mike & Veronica Bradley, the company’s namesake; the pair reins as company president and CEO, respectively. Rachel has worked for Veronica Foods for 15 years where she started selling balsamics and olive oil to fine restaurants around the Bay Area.
“Out of high school I wanted desperately to become a chef and took advantage of my meetings with chefs while selling our oils and balsamics,” said Rachel. “I told Thomas Keller, the owner and chef of The French Laundry in the Napa Valley, of my dream and asked him for his secret to success. He said to me, ‘I’ve got to be honest with you; it’s a tremendously hard job. I know you said you love to cook, but I’d advise you to stay with what you’re doing and concentrate on cooking as a home chef.”’
Rachel took his advice and began honing her skills in her home kitchen. Eventually she began concocting flavors for balsamics and oils, and the rest, as she says, is history.
“I do have some background catering outside the company, but predominately I cut my teeth in this company, learning from experience,” said Rachel. “I use culinary knowledge as a way to develop new ideas and that leads me to come up with interesting and completely revolutionary flavors with work with oils or balsamics,” said Rachel.
The base of all the balsamics, traditional or flavor-infused, we carry from Veronica Foods is from Modena, Italy. It’s made using the solera, or traditional, method and is aged in wood casks for up to 18 years. As for the flavors themselves, the company strives to use all natural ingredients in all their products.
“I’m a home cook, a foodie as some say, and like others with a passion for good food, I use only the best ingredients,” said Rachel. “My inspiration for the Pumpkin Pie Spiced balsamic was the fall season. It’s always been one of my favorite times of the year and pumpkin is an obvious seasonal flavor. I didn’t think pumpkin alone wouldn’t convey well, but knew the spices used in pumpkin pie would, so that’s how I started this infusion recipe.”
To date, Rachel has infused roughly 12 oils and 25-30 balsamics. “I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to flavor requests,” she said. “The latest request is a truffle-infused balsamic and I’m still in the research part of developing that flavor. We’re also developing a maple syrup white balsamic and a white pear cranberry balsamic; it’ll be ruby red in color and very festive for the holidays.”
Aside from developing the balsamic flavors themselves, developing recipes to feature the new flavors is part of the fun. Rachel works in the kitchen at Veronica Foods to develop new recipes or, like with the Turkey Mole, she makes tweaks to add a new twist to a traditional favorite.
The Pumpkin Pie Spiced balsamic, Rachel says, is lovely in dressings. There is a note of nutmeg that lends itself to a lot of fall applications; specifically making a nice marinade for squash. Rachel says it also pairs nicely with the Wild Mushroom & Sage extra virgin olive oil because sage and nutmeg work well together.
As for the Fresh Press Extra Virgin Olive Oils themselves, Rachel says, “I’m very smitten with the Fresh Fruits Coratina. I love the fact that it has a green apple peel taste in the center that’s followed with a great peppery finish. This oil pairs particularly well with heirloom tomatoes because it’s nicely balanced; it cuts through the sweet, juicy tomato with its ‘herbaciousness.’
Click here to learn more about the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Aged Golden Balsamic, the difference between dark and white (or golden) balsamic, the previously mentioned recipes and more!