Sunday, December 5, 2010

HOMIs meet MIHO Gastrotruck


***Project Food Blog voting is officially open!  Check out my entry page on Foodbuzz to vote, I have SO MUCH appreciation for your support!***  

Friends, I am really excited today to give you a full review of one of my new favorite lunch spots.  Actually, that's sort of a misnomer, since my new favorite 'spot' is actually a mobile hot food truck serving gourmet, hand-crafted street food: San Diego's own MIHO Gastrotruck

Over the last few years, there has been an evolution in the world of hot food trucks; previously, many major metropolitan areas were dotted with food stands and food trucks that served greasy foods or cold sandwiches, both with ingredients that the customer might rather not identify.  This is not to say the food didn't taste good, but it was squarely in the realm of 'fast food.'  More recently, the 'gourmet' food truck movement started in cities like New York and San Francisco, and then spread to Los Angeles, Portland, and even San Diego.  These gourmet food trucks differed from their predecessors, because in one way or another, they were stepping it up; instead of a fake crab patty you could get escarot and you could choose to eat a burger with grass-fed beef instead of mystery meat.  The lowly hot food truck was being elevated to haute cuisine. 


Here in San Diego, we now have quite a few gourmet food trucks cruising the streets, and San Diegians can take their pick according to what they feel like eating, and what food truck happens to be in their neighborhood that day.  Some food trucks are more popular than others, and MIHO Gastrotruck has definitely surged ahead and has strong foothold in local communities; it also happens to be my favorite because their food philosophies are aligned precisely with mine.  I like to know exactly what I am eating, and MIHO serves hand-crafted food (which means they make everything from scratch) and they get all their ingredients from local farms which means their menu changes weekly according to the seasons.  

If you know me at all by now, you are aware that I am a pretty curious and inquisitive person (I am a scientist, it comes with the territory), so when I decided to review MIHO gastrotruck I wanted to interview owners Juan Miron and Kevin Ho to get the full story about MIHO.                







I hope you enjoyed my coverage of MIHO gastrotruck!  I had such a great time talking with Juan since he is really down to earth and it is always a pleasure to chat with someone else who truly loves food.  The clip above is obviously an edited version of our interview and I wanted you to be able to see the whole thing if you are interested, so be sure to check out both Part 1 and Part 2 of my MIHO interview on YouTube.




So as Juan mentioned in the interview, he and Kevin met when they were working at The Linkery in Northpark.  The Linkery has a 'farm-to-table' mentality for their menu, so since both Juan and Kevin chose to work there, it was logical that they shared this same philosophy about food.  While Juan was working at the Linkery, he took his passion for food and cooking outside of the restaurant and started hosting underground supper clubs where he would entertain large groups of friends for dinners of homemade foods paired with craft beers.  (I think this is totally cool.)  Eventually, Kevin got in on the supper-club action, and the two became fast friends. Kevin is Chinese and Juan is Mexican, and they grew up with a big appreciation for street food.  They clued in to the gourmet hot food truck movement, and knew immediately this was the venue they were looking for to bring their love for food to a larger community.  




Similar to The Linkery, MIHO has a farm-to-street philosophy when it comes to their food.  They work with a multitude of local farms to ensure that their food is made with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients; since they work with what they can get from the farms, all their menu items are seasonal.  (For instance, a few weeks ago they had a great Pomegranate and Persimmon Salad.  Apparently great minds think alike-check out my salad!)  What's also really neat for me, is that I can go to the Farmer's Market and see the same farms that MIHO uses to get their ingredients.  This gives me a sense of connectedness and community.


And speaking of community, MIHO has a loyal following throughout many communities in San Diego, and Juan and Kevin refer to them as their "HOMIs."  As Juan says, "If you take the word MIHO and switch it around, it's like the slang word, homi."  I am more than happy to be one of MIHOs HOMIs.  And while we are talking about it, be sure to watch the video interview to find out how they came up with the awesome name MIHO!


Ok, so I really want to tell you more about their truck and how they operate, but I can't wait any longer to tell you about their food.  MIHO's food is amazing.  Their food is so fantastic in part because of their ingredients, but also because of the amazing dishes their executive chef, Courtney Bryant, dreams up.  It is isn't on their menu any longer, but the first thing I ever ate from MIHO was their Pork Belly Sammy, with house-made kimchi, pickled local cucumber, apple, and spicy mayo (made from scratch) on a french baguette from local Bread and Cie.  Seriously, I was drooling.  I have never tasted anything like it, the richness of the pork belly was perfectly balanced by the tart crunch of the apple and cucumber and the heat from the kimchi and mayo.  I cried a little when they switched it out of the menu.    

But MIHO does not disappoint, and so of course their menu was currently filled with lots of goodies.


To start with, they had a Butternut Squash Salad with tender, roasted local butternut squash and arugula (both from Suzie's Organic Farm).  The salad was topped with crushed hazelnuts and a Spanish Manchego that had a great piquant flavor to pair with peppery arugula, and balance out a little sweetness from Julian apples.  I love any salad topped with a balsamic vinaigrette, so of course I thought this salad was delicious, and definitely seasonal.


Next, they have their Grass-Fed Burger; this is something that consistently stays on the MIHO menu each week, but they change it up with different toppings and sauces.  No matter what goes on top, the patty is grass-fed beef from Tallgrass Beef, and the burger is juicy and grilled to perfection.  This week, MIHO topped the burger with fontina, butter lettuce from Suzie's, crispy shallots fried in buttermilk (I loved these!), and also their hand-made garlic-dijon aioli.  Yes, I can tell you this burger does taste as fabulous as it sounds, and there is certainly a reason it has a permanent spot on their menu.  One thing I also really like about the burger is that they serve it on a soft brioche bun from Bread and Cie.  I would never have thought a brioche bun would be good for a burger, but the sweetness and slight crisp when they grill it just works.  Oh, and did I mention you can add bacon?  We all know everything is better with bacon, and MIHO gets Duroc bacon from Vande Rose Farms.  This is the real deal. 


Alright, now I want to tell you about MIHO's Meatball Sammy.  You know how I told you I adored the Pork Belly Sammy?  Well, this meatball sammy might have stolen my heart.  The meatballs are made with the same grass-fed beef as their burger, but there is also bacon in the meatballs as well as local shitake and trumpet mushrooms (from Crows Pass Farm) plus fresh herbs.  MIHO successfully elevated the meatball to epic standing.  (And guess what??  They shared the recipe with me so I am going to make them for you this week!)  They top the meatballs with their own zesty marinara sauce, plus fresh mozzarella and pepperonata made with local peppers.  This sammy was so good, that I sent 4 of my co-workers back to get it for lunch the next day, and they loved it just as much as I did.

(As an aside, when I was talking with Juan, he mentioned they originally wanted to do the meatballs with ground pork and lamb for more depth of flavor; however, they couldn't find any sources of grass-fed meats they felt comfortable with, so they stuck with their grass-fed beef.  I think this speaks to their integrity.)  


The last main dish (but certainly not the least) that that I tried was the Polenta Pie, and I thought it was particularly interesting; I have never had anything quite like this before.  If I am being honest, it wasn't very pretty to look at, but the taste definitely made up for it.  I love polenta to begin with, especially when it is mixed with cheese, and then MIHO added local mushrooms and herbs, and topped it with roasted root vegetables (from Susie's Organic Farm) and roasted cherry tomatoes.  I think the roasted tomatoes were great, because they were the one thing that was slightly out of season, but roasting them brings out a great sweet flavor.  The whole dish was really rustic and homey and perfect for a chilly fall day.                      


And then I can't forget about the fries!  MIHO has great Belgian Style Fries made from Kennebec potatoes, that they slice and prep in their off-site kitchen each day, and then fry to order for each customer.  The fries come with different hand-made sauces: this week they had a Baharat Ketchup which had a spicy, earthy flavor, but another time they had an awesome garlic dipping sauce.  Right now you can only order a full size of fries, but I wish that there was the option to order a 'combo' meal and get a smaller portion of fries with any of the 'main' dishes; maybe MIHO will do this in the future.    

Oh, and if you have a sweet tooth (or any room left in your stomach), MIHO also has organic cookies and cupcakes.  I didn't get a chance to try these (see last comment about having any room left in the stomach), but I saw several customers buying/eating them so I bet they are delicious.  


Then to wash down your whole meal, MIHO has a great selection of bottled beverages; for me, I was giddy at the idea of getting to drink a Mexican Coke in a real glass bottle.  Perfection. 


So I am sure you are wondering, what is the price point here?  Well, in my opinion, MIHO's prices are at just the right place between inexpensive and expensive.  If you are looking for a $4 burger, head to McDonald's, because you won't get that here.  I think the saying usually holds true that, 'good things aren't cheap and cheap things aren't good,' and I am more than happy to pay MIHO's prices to get grass-fed beef and dishes made from ingredients from local farms; not only do I know what is in my food, but I also know I am supporting locals.  So just as an example, the Meatball Sammy was $7.25 and the Grass-Fed Burger was $7.75.  I would come back and pay that again to order either of these items (and in fact I have already!), I think it is completely reasonable. 



So if you want to visit MIHO for a great lunch during the week, or for one of the events they do on the weekends, be sure to check out their website to follow them on Facebook or Twitter to be 'in the know' about their weekly menu items.  Currently, MIHO is working on a new location, but they are all over San Diego from Little Italy, to UTC, and their most popular location is Sorrento Valley.  


I am sure you have already had your fill of info about MIHO, but before I finish up, I just wanted to share a few things I asked Juan about after our interview.  Like I said, I am curious, and I think it just tells a little bit more about what makes MIHO unique.  

Q: Do you guys own your truck/rent it?  Where did you find out about it/buy it, and what changes did you make to it for MIHO? 

A: We do own our truck.  After months of research, we finally were able to track one down from a man named Bill, who has been in the business for 25 years. He became a great resource and was able to show us a few options. The truck is an 84' so we definitely put some TLC into it and we also spent some more money on the outfitting the exterior and interior to give it the MIHO touch. We worked with a local design firm, SavSec, for the branding/identity/web page design. The logo was done by Jonna Isaac.          

Q: What do you do when the weather is bad (although that almost never happens in SD)? 


A: We are constantly checking the weather reports and if we feel like it going to rain we bring a pop-up tarp that we set up right out front of our truck. This way our HOMI's can stand under it while they order and most likely they will take their food to go. But, rain does affect our business.


Q: Do both you and Kevin work 7 days a week to keep MIHO up and running, or do you get 'days off' on the weekend?


A: For the first month we were working around 90 hours a week each. As the months went by, we started having a day off, but its never really a day off. Now that we have hit the 6 month mark, our team has grown, and we are in the process of coaching our team within all the positions so Kevin and I can focus on growing the business. MIHO is our labour of love and even if we are not on the truck we are still working on our sides of the business.








***This is my NINTH entry for Project Food Blog challenge (I seriously can't believe it.).   For this  challenge, we were asked to do a comprehensive restaurant review from our own unique perspective.   I actually don't go out for fancy dinners all that often, and I can really appreciate the community that is fostered by street food and hot food trucks.  For my entry I couldn't think of a better place to review than MIHO Gastrotruck, since they have great food, support local farms, and make all their items from scratch.  I hope you find this review and my video interview interesting, and that you will visit MIHO in the future!   If you liked this post I would LOVE it if you would vote for me!  This is the last round before the finals and all your support counts!   You can check out my profile on Foodbuzz , view my past entries,  and vote starting 6AM PST, on Monday, December 6th.   Thanks SO much for your support and encouragement!

57 comments:

  1. Amanda, I was fascinated by your review. Familiar with greasy chip trucks, I had NO idea the real food movement had taken to the streets on wheels. Love their farm to street concept, that they serve healthy hand crafted food and vary their menu based on seasonal availability. And who'd have thought poutine has become a San Diego favourite, eh?

    Very informative, and especially enjoyed your video interview with MIHO's owners.

    You nailed it!

    Judy

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  2. What a great post! I loved your video interview! It was very cute and very awesome.

    And this is totally random but at 0:47 on the video you can hear daft punk playing in the background. It made me laugh :)

    Congrats on getting as far as you have on pfb and I'll be voting for you again!

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  3. Amanda
    what a great post!! I love that truck! I don't know when Philadelphia is going to get some gastrotrucks...we are still pretty lame when it comes to most street food.
    I would take just about anything they were selling, and on top of that they give you your tenth sandwich free....how cool is that!
    cheers
    Dennis

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  4. This is awesome! I love the food trucks in Philly (although I tend to stay away from the "fast food" hotdog carts). I love the crepe truck, a cookie truck and cupcake truck. MIHO looks so good!! They should open a satellite "location" here in Philly!! :o)

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  5. Amanda, good luck in this round. Glad you stayed true to yourself and your voice here. Well done on such a great achievement so far!

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  6. Great review! You make me want to hop a plane to San Diego just to try some of the Gastrotruck delicious-ness.

    And a HUGE congratulations to making it to Round 9 of the Foodbuzz competition! Adam said they'd better feature you in the next Wittenberg Magazine if you win :)

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  7. It's a great post, and original for me!!! There is nothing like that here...I wonder if I shouldn't buy a truck & do sth like that !!!

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  8. Great post. I love that this is in my metro area! I never knew there was such a food movement going on outside my door. I'm too stuck on cooking in my own home. Reading the challenge posts this week I realize that a lot of inspiration comes from going out and ingesting good food made by others! Thanks for the post.

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  10. Amanda: an all around very strong entry. I like your approach: focus on a trend (not just a place), interview with owners, food review, documentary photographs,... Really thorough and well done.

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  11. somethingsavory: Haha, yes you can hear Daft Punk in the background! :D Actually, if you listen closely, during other parts of the interview you might be able to hear some Death Cab for Cutie, maybe some Feist. I forgot to mention in my review, but MIHO always has some great tunes streaming out from the inside of their truck. Makes for a fun/happy cooking environment for them, and also relaxing for hanging out and eating lunch with friends!

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  12. Great coverage, love their Farm to Street and logos. Fabulous!

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  13. You've made me so flipping jealous. Grass fed burgers? from a truck no less? OM-freaking-G! I vowed i'd give up abstaining from meat if I could get my hands on properly treated cows... and I cant even find that stuff in the grocery store! ahhh must be amazing!

    shall i put in a transfer to sand diego? haha

    xoXOxo
    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

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  14. What an awesome post! I wish we had such trucks here.

    Good luck!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  15. Great post, Amanda. We have no gastro-trucks in Asheville...I'm totally jealous. It is such a genius idea! Fun, informative video!

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  16. Love this! As the snow flies here in Michigan, I don't think we'll ever be part of this food truck movement, so I'll have to live vicariously through you :)

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  17. Great review, I love it! The food looks (and sounds)amazing. The farm-to-street philosophy is one I can definitely get behind. Good luck!

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  18. What a great job Amanda! I love how you did a video too! I want one of those trucks. I guess I just have to stick to eating off them for now! Good Luck!

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  19. Absolutely fantastic review, Amanda! What a great way to think outside of the "restaurant box" by reviewing a food truck...the trend that really seems to be taking the nation by storm. Congrats on round 9, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you for making it to the final 3!

    ~Leslie

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  20. As a fellow San Diegan I'm always looking for good places to eat, and I have to admit that I didn't even know that this existed!! You have become quite the videographer! Our fingers are crossed for you on the Project!!! Thank you for the review, we will give Miho a try next time we are in the area!!

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  21. Awesome review, I live in San Diego and wasn't even aware of this food truck! It even goes near my school once a week. I love the farm-to-street concept, and I'll definitely be checking it out in the future.

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  22. I am SHOCKED that the prices are so low for such high quality food!! Amazing (and wonderful). I am intensely jealous of you and your access to this outstanding food truck! :)

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  23. I recall that IFBC had a focus on food trucks and I was so jealous...until I checked the scene in Denver and found it's quite a growing movement here too (I'm in the burbs; the trucks really focus on Denver's downtown area).

    So your post was informative and timely as there does seem to be a growing...and welcome trend towards good street food.

    Nice article.

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  24. When I visit San Diego, we totally have to go here! And I'm so glad you tried lots of things and they were all good. I'm always kinda skeptical about the places where one thing is good. Clearly not the case here :)

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  25. Definitely makes me rethink stops like this :) Congrats to making it to challenge 9 ! You have most definitely remained true to yourself and that is part of what makes your blog so enjoyable!

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  26. Haha neato. I saw you take some of these pics that day at UTC. Juan and Kevin are definitely top notch folk. I'm working on filling up my second MIHO card already.

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  27. Oh now I'm going to have to follow them on twitter. So excited!!

    Maggie

    mybreakfastblog.com

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  28. Lynn: HA! I just checked out your site and now that I see your photo I realized you have a little cameo in my video footage! If you look at the beginning of my video interview, you can actually see yourself through the pickup window of the truck. ;) Anyway, like your site, maybe sometime we should get together and talk photography!

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  29. I loved your take on the challenge! I wish I could jump in a plane to the west coast to try all of that food!! I love food trucks. Good luck on the contest!

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  30. OMG, I wold be willing to relocate in order to love in a city with gourmet food trucks! I loved this entry. My vote is in!

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  31. Great post! Love that you did a video, took great photos, did interviews and showcased great food! You have my vote! Goodluck!!!

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  32. we are dying for Chicago to allow food trucks like this to roam the city, i am so jealous that you get access to great food trucks like this all the time! this is a great post, and love that you went and did a video as well. i'm pretty sure you're ready to do a tv show, yeah? :)

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  33. Loved your post, and I voted for you. Good luck!

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  34. This was such a great review! I wanted to pack up and leave for San Diego the whole time! I wish we had street food cars here in Louisville (future business opportunity, maybe?! hehe) Great job and you got my vote for this one!

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  35. That looks like an amazing meal! I'm so jealous. :(
    Toronto is definitely lagging behind when it comes to the food truck scene... we can get fries from a truck, but they definitely don't come with homemade ketchup! (And don't get me started on the Chinese food truck I used to frequent in university, which lived up to that whole "roach coach" nickname... ew) Looks like I'll have to plan a trip to San Diego to try out a real food truck for a change!

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  36. Wow, I have to seek this truck out. Wonder if they hit up Mira Mesa or Carmel Valley. Lovely review and pictures

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  37. look at you doing interviews, this is awesome! That meal looks perfect.

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  38. Well done, fantastic review! You continue to shine and I continue to be amazed by you!

    If only I could convince MIHO to road trip up to Salt Lake City. Their food looks amazing! We have a gourmet taco truck that I love, hopefully some others will pop up soon too.

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  39. Excellent review. I love MIHO's philosophy on Farm to Table food. I wish more businesses would take on that approach.
    Great pics too btw, excellent dipiction of what they are all about.
    We only have roach coaches here in Phx. ;(

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  40. I cannot tell a lie. I bought both the pork Sammy and polenta pie today thinking ill save one for lunch tomorrow. They're long gone.

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  41. Great images! I love that you used the chalk board descriptions in your layout. It shows off the DIY aesthetic of the Miho truck, and I love it. You have my final vote in round 9! — Cheers!

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  42. I might have to hop in the car and make a mid-week trip to SD to try this one out.

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  43. Your video is excellent Amanda! Great choice of subject- food trucks are all the rage. Good luck!

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  44. Awesome and innovative post!I had somehow always associated food trucks with oily fries and not very appetizing pizzas... Miho gastro-truck is a real gem and I really like the concept of "Farm to Street". For me you belong to the top 3!!

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  46. You are the bomb, if you don't make the top 3, this website is going to hear my thoughts...and it won't like them

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  47. Loved your post! Well written and beautifully photographed...great review. Good luck - you've got my vote (as per usual!)

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  48. That was a fascinating post! I love these guys, so friendly and focused; this is such an 180 from the America I have know when I first moved to California in the late seventies...so much is changing, it is so exciting! Great job, excellent read.

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  49. Excellent job, Amanda! LOVED the interview (you're so great on camera!) and the entire review. I have enormous respect for these creative entrepreneurs, it's such hard work, but you can tell they really love what they do.

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  50. Hi Amanda - what a refreshing idea to review a food truck for this challenge! I really enjoyed the entire post including your video. Good luck to you!! Hope to try MIHO one day...
    LL

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  51. i love your post. great review. i wish we have food trucks here...

    good luck!

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  52. I was sorry to hear you didn't make it to the final round. I loved this post - I love that you did something out of the ordinary and reviewed a food truck. And I definitely want to check out MIHO whenever I get a chance to visit San Diego.

    Congrats on making it this far! You should be proud! :)

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  53. Great interview, I am going to start following them, and the next time I head to SD, I sure hope I find them. Their food looks and sounds DELICIOUS!

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  54. I'm heading to San Diego next summer for BlogHer! Looking forward to finding this truck and trying 'em out. Great video/review/post!

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  55. Oh yum! If you are ever in Orange County...try the Kogi Truck. It's our favorite :)

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  56. We are just starting to get some food trucks here in Boston. This one looks particularly wonderful! Great feature!

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