Making the rounds at South Florida restaurants and food festivals, you're likely to hear the name L'Artisane Creative Bakery more than once.
Across Miami, culinarians are praising the creations of Carolina Molea, the chef and owner at this itty-bitty North Beach spot that's grabbing everyone's attention.
Molea's croissants in particular are becoming a big deal. Several local restaurants serve them, and the winning bite at this year's Seed Food & Wine Week Plant-Based Burger Battle was piled onto one of these buttery creations.
And buttery they are, but the butter is made from plants.
Everything at Molea's European-inspired eatery is vegan, from smooth chocolate truffles to traditional challah bread to stacked Impossible burgers. It's an extensive menu and includes both savory and sweet items.
Molea opened the spot in February when she noticed a lack of options for fine vegan pastries in South Florida.
"I felt that there was something that was missing in the vegan community, especially here in Miami," she says. Plus, there were favorite foods she herself was craving. Vegan croissants, for example, are difficult to find — or they were before L'Artisane.
Molea has been vegan for seven years and customized her culinary school experience to focus on plant-based ingredients. Born in Venezuela, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu and is an American Culinary Federation certified chef. Her specialty is classic French cuisine, and it shows.
Selections at her cozy eatery include a tofu-based quiche ($7.95), a nonchicken salad sandwich ($11.75), a grilled cheese ($7.95), cinnamon rolls ($3.25), and all kinds of delicate, French-inspired options such as the framboise petit gâteau, made with chocolate sablé, raspberry cheesecake mousse, raspberry insert, and chocolate cake ($5.95), and the diplomat mille-feuille, with raspberry gelée, vanilla chantilly, and raspberries ($5.95).
"I focus a lot on flavors. With sweets, I try not to make them overly sweet, try to make them balanced. I use a lot of fruits and high-quality ingredients," she says. "That's how it all started, with that idea in my head."
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Despite the bakery's small size, Molea has branched out into wholesale. She supplies her baked goods to an increasing number of chefs, eateries, and storefronts in the area.
"The response has been amazing," she says. "Honestly, I was superscared when I first opened, and that is why I moved into such a little space and the location because it was a huge risk. There is no big money behind us; it is just my husband and I. We put our savings in here. We believe in what we're doing, and the community has been so supportive."
She adds, "I think this is the right moment to show people what we are all about. They are not missing out at all [by eating vegan]. It's been fabulous because many of my clients are not even vegan; they just come here because they love it."
L'Artisane Creative Bakery. 7423 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-502-8595; lartisanebakery.com. Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.