BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalonians sure like candy and ice cream. Among traveling gourmets, the Nickel City is best known for its spicy hot chicken wings and its roast beef sandwiches on caraway-seed hard rolls, both of which are terrific; but it is impossible to eat one's way around town without noticing that nearly everywhere you go there are stands, stores, shops and parlors touting their ice cream specialties and hand-dipped candies.
The candy selection, at its best purveyors, is nothing less than spectacular. For instance, drive north to the section of Buffalo known as Kenmore and look for the avocado-green facade of a place called Condrell's. Step inside and look to your right. It is a dazzling sight: case after case filled with candy, nearly all of it made on the premises, hand-dipped and delicious-looking. Choose from among molasses paddles and chips enrobed in dark or light chocolate; cashew or pecan turtles; chocolate-covered chunks of candied orange, pineapple and ginger; dozens of varieties of cream centers; almond bark, truffles; chocolate-covered pretzels; and malted milk balls. The array of sweet things to eat makes a customer feel like, well, like a kid in a candy store.
The rest of Condrell's is an ice cream parlor with small tables surrounded by plush upholstered (in that avocado green again!) chairs. The menu is small and to the point: ice cream, ice cream and ice cream. There are regular sundaes and sodas, of course, as well as various troughs of giant-size specialties including the Fudgana (four scoops, hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts), banana boats and assorted pigs' dinners for two or four ice cream gluttons.
The sundaes are real beauties, although we found the hot fudge to be fairly wan, without the kind of chocolate wallop we like on a sundae. We recommend that serious cocoa-heads choose semisweet chocolate sauce instead of hot fudge, and perhaps pay 35 cents extra to get a double portion on their sundae. The other alternative that will satisfy a serious chocolate craving is a Condrell's creation listed as "French" chocolate sauce. Now this is an inspired idea: ultrathick, pitch-dark topping that is in fact warm chocolate pudding. A stroke of genius! Heaped upon a quartet of scoops of vanilla ice cream and topped with real whipped cream and plenty of toasted nuts, its avoirdupois and warmth are a perfect foil for the cold luxury of the ice cream underneath.
The intensity of such ice cream spectaculars makes a tongue crave water; and that is the funny thing about Condrell's. Water is served in tiny glasses barely bigger than a jigger. We went through a half-dozen refills before our French chocolate sauce-induced thirst was finally slaked.
French chocolate sauce
Makes 10 to 12 portions for the top of sundaes, or 6 to 8 servings of pudding.
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a heavy saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt. Stir about a quarter cup of milk into this dry mixture and stir thoroughly until smooth. Add remaining milk and water, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow pudding to cool slightly, stirring occasionally, and serve warm, atop ice cream, before it begins to set.
(If you want to make this as "pudding," increase the amount of cornstarch to 4 tablespoons, and let it cool completely. Serve topped with whipped cream.)
Condrell's Candies and Ice Cream Parlor, 2805 Delaware Ave., Kenmore, N.Y. 14217; (716) 877-4485.