When Gothamist was a little kid we always looked forward to our Upstate vacations. Sure, helping Grandpa milk the cows was fun, and visiting our older cousins was always a treat, but the real treat came at night. Our cousins lived a mile or two north of a Nestle's Chocolate plant. On nights with a southerly breeze the whole town would fill with the smell of chocolate. It was as if we had moved to Willy Wonka's town. Awesome!
Many years later we moved to a college town in the Midwest. We didn't have much time or much choice in apartments so we rented the first decent place shown to us. Little did we know that the apartment was two blocks away from a potato chip factory. When the wind was right we would be overwhelmed with the smell of frying oil. It was as if the whole town smelled like the interior of Pomme Frites. Not so awesome! We could not eat chips for a long time. When we complained to friends and colleagues who were long-time residents of town we were met with a universal response, "You should have smelled the place before the ketchup plant burnt down. Now that was really bad!"
That we occasionally smell the maple syrup smell can be considered a good thing. It shows us how much cleaner the air is in post-industrial, post-Clean Air Act, New York. The air could be cleaner but at least the East River is no longer lined with tanneries, TriBeCa isn't a parfumerie of dairy products, horse manure and printer's inks, and Secausus isn't the hog rendering capital of the world. As Jake astutely observer earlier, last night's maple syrup smell (Gothamist smelled it too!) played out like in the NY Times scenario: Thursday night + temperature inversion that prevents air from mixing + winds from the west to northwest = maple syrup smell!
Tonight might be an interesting test as meteorological conditions will be similar to last night but not as cold. Saturday will be sunny and mild, high temperatures in the lower 50s. It stays warm on Sunday but clouds and rain will move in later in the day.