Valentine's Day has always been a favorite of mine, and for years I've sent cards to favorite friends and family. This year won't be any different. However, with candy and flowers (typical gifts for the day-of-love) in mind, an option presented itself when I visited a local bakery. If you're in search of a different Valentine's present for someone special; why not a decorated cookie or cupcake?
Dee's Bakery and Cafe at 970 S. McCarran, #102, in Sparks, is a sweet spot with the added bonus of a delightful, light and bright cafe serving breakfast and lunch. With relatively new owners, John and Michelle Hall, it's a regular stop for many seniors for its cheerful, friendly service. Dee's offers Wedding cakes, specialty cakes and cupcakes to order (I'm seriously considering a splurge on the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cake), catering, and parties. They do tea parties by appointment for small groups – what a great way to celebrate a birthday or holiday. There are just seven tables in the cafe (and it's quiet – no blaring music); both breakfast and lunch menus offer a good variety of traditional choices and coffee drinks have eight specialty selections to choose from.
The bakery display case is small, but well supplied with cupcakes, brownies, cookies, breakfast pastries, chilled delights like cream puffs and more; the variety varies daily. My personal favorite is a cookie loaded with dried cranberries, white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts. Owner/manager Rosa Hall offers Brazilian specialties for Saturday lunches (call ahead to see what will be on offer, 775/351-2253). Dee's is open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There's on-site parking and easy access from both north and south directions of McCarran (just south of I-80 East).
Also in Sparks is the Panederia Azteca #2, at 780 N. McCarran Blvd. (Southeast corner of McCarran and Prater Way). If you have never visited a Mexican bakery, this one is typical; choose your own pastries from a closed case using a large plastic tray and a pair of metal tongs. There's usually a refrigerated case as well, with treats like Flan and Tres Leches cake slices. I'm hooked on the Panederia Azteca version of bread pudding; it's dense and studded with raisins. For fun you can indulge in a Hostess-look-alike cupcake with chocolate icing and loops of white decoration. Many Mexican pastries aren't as sweet as their American cousins, but the Panederia's version of a frosted, yellow pound cake is a treat not to be missed.