4xForth: Karen Valentine of Roam & Home / by Clare Johnson

Karen Valentine Each Friday we're highlighting one of the lovely women in our community by learning about her favorite Chicago places and restaurants, hearing what she's excited about for the upcoming season, and gaining some incredible travel recommendations.

It’s 4 x Forth Friday and today we’re talking to Karen Valentine of Roam & Home. Karen is a native Australian, food and travel curator, amazing writer and wicked-fun dinner party guest. Need a recommendation for where to travel and what to do? Talk to this amazing woman! She will never steer you wrong. 

TRAVEL AFAR - Places I'll go someday I get anxious without a plane ticket booked to go somewhere. I’m a Nomad with a fixed address [mortgage] so I am always equipped with a valid passport and list of places that I am ready to visit or revisit at a moments notice. The next spots include (in no specific order): 1) Japan:  it has been on the list the longest. I want to visit during the spring to see the Cherry Blossoms and eat my way from top to bottom of this country. I just love the clean crisp flavors Japan brings to the table.

2) Northern & Western Australia: Shhh, don’t tell other Australian’s but when it comes to Australia - I have never been to the Northern Territory or Western Australia - next visit home I gotta get there, not just to say I have been to all the States & Territories but because they look so freakin’ amazing!

3) Greece: a summer destination to eat fresh seafood straight from the boat and admire all that white architecture melting into the blue sea - just pick an island and plant ourselves.

4) Africa: My first trip there had my heart captured. It truly is the soul of the earth. Botswana will always have me, but I want to see the great migration in Kenya and check out Tanzania.

TRAVEL IN THE BACKYARD - Favorite places to visit outside the city/day trips from Chicago Chicago is surrounded by so many amazing places to visit that I could go on forever here. Off the cuff - these places come to mind: 1) Galena: great in the fall - the colors are amazing! Go for the historic buildings, and the charming laid back country life. When there, take the little trolley for a historic tour. Who knew that little wire handle on the paint can was invented here!

2) Milwaukee: Pack the dog and head to the Iron Horse Hotel for the night - we take our pampered mutt everywhere we can. Arrive in the afternoon so you can hit up the Milwaukee Art museum, maybe do a Miller Brewery Tour [we do this with lots of out-of-towners]. Then have dinner Ardent - it’s on my current to eat list. In the AM before you head home - stop for brunch at Trocadero’s, and take a walk along Brady Street before heading home.

3) Anywhere along Lake Michigan in the Summer: Rent a dog friendly home right on the beach for a week and forget that the world exists. Unplug [you will likely be forced to this - most places we have stayed have spotty signals]. Again, something we do with out-of-towners. The Aussies always marvel that such a HUGE body of water has no salt in it. It’s an incredible part of the world. Lots of great farm fresh produce to be found and little ma & pa stores to support.

4) House on the RockHilarious! Fascinating and well, hard to explain - but just go experience this massive collection of stuff - another crowd pleaser. Throw in Cave of the Mounds (30 minutes away) while you are there. Heck, stay at the kitsch themed Don Q Inn in Dodgeville or if you want some luxury accommodation and great restaurants, do an overnight in Madison, WI and you have a fun road trip.

FOOD - Best Bites in Chicago

1) I love street food and quick on the go eats, and I compile these lists for Chicago over at Chowzter.

2) Bahn Mi Hot Dog at Franks’n’Dawgs. I am not sad like the rest of Chicago that Hot Doug’s is now closed. I always preferred this place for their made in house ‘dawgs’ and accoutrements along with their gourmet sourced buns. Add in a little heat and some pickled veggies - you have me.

3) Fried Chicken and I have a few faves - Parson’s for sitting outside with a frozen negroni and bringing the dog along + Honey Butter Fried Chicken for their - well - honey butter and the magic spiced goodness that is sprinkled on top. The sides are delicious, too!

FOOD & TRAVEL- Things I am looking forward to this Fall / Winter Autumn is my fave season, the boots, the scarves, the coats, the woolen everything. I even look forward to seeing those first snow falls of the season, and then I get over and I focus on more food & travel. This season I am looking forward to: 1) A trip to London & Lisbon over Thanksgiving: I love London and all it’s glorious misery in the winter time. There is something about that city that feeds my soul. And then Lisbon - OMG - dying to visit! Inspired by too many Instagram travels there - I have got to see it’s insane beauty for myself.

2) Mexico in February: No one can sanely survive a Chicago winter without a ticket booked before the first snow. This trip will be back to Tulum - that beach is amongst the best in the world for sure. Oh - my heart just warmed up thinking about it.

3) Soups: Glorious thick creamy soups - like roasted butternut squash. I love making them. Shove everything in a pot - brown & sauté, shove in some stock - shove in a blend - done - dinner is ready - just add crusty bread with loads of butter.

4) Holiday Parties: When you work from home and you are in your PJ’s with layers of blankets / ponchos & woolie socks - it’s nice to have an excuse to get out of the house. You get scrubbed up - pop on a pair of heels, wear some sparkles, and share some laughs with lots of champagne toasts.

Thanks for sharing, Karen! I'm sure most of us wish we could join you on your many upcoming adventures (myself included!); they sound wonderful! Whether over seas or just up in Wisconsin, your ideas for fun and exploration are truly inspiring. We'll be keeping an eye out for posts about your London and Lisbon adventures next month!
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