Sitting in Viva Cocolat is as if the chocolaterie in the 2000 film "Chocolat" came to life. Luxury truffles dusted with chili powder sit temptingly in a glass case while patrons slurp European hot chocolate so thick you need a spoon to finish off the dregs at the bottom of the cup.
This Valentine's Day, whether it's been 30 years or three months, owner and chocolate maker Lynn Wong can help make your sweetheart's day one to remember.
The mainly self-taught chocolatier opened her shop on Feb. 9, 2008 just in time for Valentine's Day.
"I wanted to do something in Petaluma, I wanted to do something with chocolate and I wanted to fill a niche," said Wong.
Valentine's Day is her second busiest holiday (right behind the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season), although she doesn't amp up her production so much as she does her patience.
"Valentine shoppers are not pre-planners," says Wong smiling and rolling her eyes. "They buy for color not for flavor."
Essentially, if it's red and heart shaped, they buy it. For anyone wanting to get more creative this year, Wong recommends giving a dozen roses — chocolate roses wrapped in red foil — or chocolate dipped strawberries (call ahead to special order). A heart shaped box full of truffles works, too — bonus points for hand selecting her favorites.
"It's more personal if there's a story behind what you pick," says Wong.
Wong loves romantic chocolate stories. A man once commissioned a heart shaped box made of white chocolate, which she delivered to Central Market, just two doors down from her shop. He hid an engagement ring inside the box and presented it to his honey at dinner. Her answer? Wong received a gushing and grateful phone call from the recipient asking "How do I preserve the box?"
Another man wrote "Will you marry me again?" on the bottom of a truffle cup so when his wife ate the truffle she would see the message.
One couple took a truffle making class together at Viva Cocolat and called Wong to let her know the class sparked their chemistry and they got engaged shortly thereafter.
When she's not helping couples get engaged Wong is giving back to her community. Once a year she guest lectures in a "Spanish in the Workplace" class at Casa Grande High School. The class has a unit on growing cocoa beans and Wong comes in to lead a chocolate tasting, from white chocolate down to pure dark baking chocolate. Needless to say, it's the highlight of the students' year.
As a business owner, she also helps conduct mock interviews for students at Casa, many of whom have had no previous interview or work experience. She then gives them feedback so they can be better prepared for real world situations.
"They get a heads up before they go out and make a big mistake," Wong explains.
For couples that still don't have plans for Valentine's Day, Wong has prepared a reservations-only intimate chocolate fondue dessert for couples looking to do something sweet, romantic and a little different.
To commemorate the six-year anniversary of Viva Cocolat, Wong is hosting her annual celebration party on Feb. 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. In addition to her "infamous" chocolate fountain, reiki healing, tarot readers and massage therapy, Wong will also raffle off a 10 lb. piece of Belgian chocolate.