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Knee Pain Treatment & Specialist

In West Belmar, NJ

Avoid Surgery and Reduce Pain with

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment in West Belmar, NJ

Are you experiencing knee pain symptoms such as popping, clicking, bone-on-bone grinding, achiness, or sharp stabs? You're not alone in this journey. Knee pain affects nearly 25% of adults in the United States, causing discomfort, swelling, and chronic pain that can hinder everyday activities like childcare, walking, and exercise. Shockingly, recent statistics from The American Academy of Family Physicians indicate a 65% increase in diagnosed knee pain cases.

In a world where invasive surgeries and prescription painkillers are often the default solutions, it's crucial to explore the effective non-invasive options that are available. These alternative treatments provide relief without the associated risks of surgery.

Today, many doctors still recommend invasive surgeries and prescription painkillers rather than exploring non-invasive options. While those treatments are needed in some circumstances, there are alternative treatments available that can help you overcome knee pain without needing to go under the knife.

NJ Sports Spine and Wellness' advanced knee pain treatment in West Belmar, NJ gives men and women suffering from knee pain hope. Instead of relying on surgery, our team of doctors and physical therapists use non-invasive, highly effective treatments to help heal prevalent conditions such as:

Service Areas

Arthritis

Soft tissue injury

ACL tears

MCL tears

Patella dislocation

Misalignment of the kneecap

Patella tendonitis

Jumper's knee

Osgood Schlatter's Disease

Knee

With the right treatment,

many people can reduce their pain and improve their function, allowing them to return to normal daily activities. Plus, by taking preventative measures and seeking prompt care from our team, it's possible to reduce your risk of developing chronic knee pain and other painful knee conditions. If you've been searching for a non-invasive way to eliminate knee pain and get back to an active life, your journey to recovery starts here.

Let's take a closer look at some of the knee pain treatments available at NJ Sports Spine and Wellness, which all serve as great alternatives to knee replacement surgery.

Physical Therapy:

Optimizing Musculoskeletal Health with Conservative Care

The field of Physical Therapy (PT) aims to rehabilitate individuals who have experienced injury, illness, or disability by restoring their mobility and function. Physical therapists cater to patients of various ages and capabilities, ranging from young athletes to senior citizens, in order to help them surpass physical limitations and improve their standard of living with advanced knee pain treatment in West Belmar, NJ.

At NJ Sports Spine and Wellness, our physical therapy program was founded on a patient-centric philosophy, where physical therapists work closely with patients to get a deep understanding of their goals, preferences, and capabilities. In doing so, they can create a tailor-made treatment strategy to address their unique knee pain with the goal of avoiding a knee replacement. Treatment may involve exercises that are therapeutic in nature and can include:

  • Joint mobilizations
  • Soft tissue mobilization using cupping
  • Graston technique
  • Soft tissue massage
  • Stretching of associated muscle groups

Joint Mobilization for Knee Pain

This unique knee pain solution involves physical therapists using skilled manual therapy techniques to help improve your joint range of motion while simultaneously reducing your knee pain.

During joint mobilization, a physical therapist applies targeted pressures or forces to a joint in specific directions to improve its mobility. The intensity of the force applied can vary, and it is adjusted based on the patient's comfort level. Joint mobilization is generally pain-free.

STM

Soft Tissue Mobilization (STM)

Soft Tissue Mobilization is a manual therapy technique that involves stretching and applying deep pressure to rigid muscle tissue. This helps to relax muscle tension and move fluids that are trapped in the tissues that cause pain and inflammation. This effective form of physical therapy is often used as an advanced knee pain treatment in West Belmar, NJ for treating knee strains, knee sprains, knee pain, and more.

Graston

The Graston Technique

The Graston Technique involves the use of handheld instruments to identify and break up scar tissue through specialized massage. During a Graston Technique session, physical therapists use convex and concave tools for cross-friction massage, which involves rubbing or brushing against the grain of the scar tissue. This process re-introduces small amounts of trauma to the affected area. In some cases, this process temporarily causes inflammation, which can actually boost the amount and rate of blood flow in the knee. This process helps initiate and promote the healing process so you can get back to a normal life.

Massage

Soft Tissue Massage

Soft tissue massage is a less intense form of massage than it's deep-tissue relative. Instead of focusing on slow and firm strokes to reach the deep layers of muscles and tissues, this massage technique uses a variety of pressures, depths, and durations. Soft tissue massage is helpful in alleviating different types of knee aches, pains, and injuries. Soft tissue massages can also help reduce stress, improve circulation, and promote relaxation.

Advanced Mechanics and Technology:

The Future of Knee Pain Therapy

While knee pain is a common symptom that affects millions of Americans every year, no two cases of knee pain are ever exactly alike. Some types of knee injuries require non-traditional solutions. At New Jersey Sports Spine and Wellness, we offer a range of treatments that leverage mechanics and technology to help patients recover from injuries while treating inflammation and pain as well as resolve the root cause of the pain.

AlterAlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill

The AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill is equipped with NASA Differential Air Pressure (DAP) technology, which is a precise air calibration system that uses the user's actual body weight to enhance rehabilitation and training. By utilizing a pressurized air chamber, the AlterG allows patients and athletes to move without any pain or restrictions.

This advanced knee pain treatment in West Belmar, NJ uniformly reduces gravitational load and body weight up to 80% in precise 1% increments. The results can be incredible, with patients reporting benefits such as:

  • Restoring and building of knee strength
  • Restored range of motion in the knee
  • Better balance
  • Improved knee function
  • More

What Makes the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill So Effective?

The AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can monitor various metrics such as speed, gait pattern, stride length, and weight distribution. With real-time feedback and video monitoring, your rehabilitation team can promptly and accurately identify issues and pain points or monitor your progress throughout your knee pain rehabilitation journey.

One of the key benefits of this cutting-edge equipment is that it replicates natural walking and movement patterns without the artificial feel that hydrotherapy or harnesses create. This makes it an excellent choice for faster recovery after knee injuries or surgeries, as it allows for early mobilization while also preserving strength. Furthermore, it is ideal for sports recovery as athletes can use it for physical conditioning maintenance.

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ
Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

Low-Level Laser Therapy

Our advanced treatment modalities for knee pain include laser therapy, which harnesses the revolutionary power of light through photobiomodulation (PBM). LiteCureâ„¢ low-level laser therapy is available for acute and chronic types of knee pain and can be hugely beneficial when coupled with physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, and sports recovery care.

Understanding Photobiomodulation (PBM)

PBM is a medical treatment that harnesses the power of light to stimulate the body's natural healing abilities. The photons from the light penetrate deep into the tissue and interact with mitochondria, which results in a boost in energy production. This interaction sets off a biological chain reaction that increases cellular metabolism. Utilizing low-level light therapy has been shown to:

  • Alleviate knee pain
  • Speed up tissue healing
  • Promote overall health and wellness
  • Expedite knee pain injury recovery
Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

Exclusive Access to

Pain Management Professionals

At NJ Sports Spine & Wellness, we know that every patient requires a personalized approach to chronic knee pain and condition management. Sometimes, our patients need access to pain management professionals, who can offer relief in conjunction with physical therapy and other solutions like low-level laser therapy.

Two of the most common services we offer for pain management includes acupuncture which can assist in avoiding knee replacement surgery.

Acupuncture is a common treatment for knee pain that involves inserting thin needles into specific points in your knee. This ancient Chinese medicine has gained popularity in Western culture due to its effectiveness in treating various conditions with minimal side effects.

Acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system to release various biochemicals, including endorphins and other neurotransmitters. The release of these chemicals helps to reduce inflammation, decrease pain perception, and improve overall blood circulation.

Multiple studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in treating knee pain caused by a variety of conditions, including osteoarthritis and injuries related to physical activity like running. Acupuncture can also help reduce inflammation, improve muscle function, and decrease pain perception, making it a viable treatment on its own or as an addition to traditional treatment methods like physical therapy.

When undergoing acupuncture, a professional acupuncturist will insert thin needles into specific acupoints on the skin. These needles are left in place for roughly 20 to 30 minutes and may be gently stimulated for an enhanced effect. Patients might experience a slight tingle or warmth at the needle insertion site, but overall, acupuncture is considered a painless procedure.

Acupuncture has been a trusted and effective treatment option for thousands of years. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture as a legitimate form of healthcare, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has even funded research studies to explore its efficacy for a range of medical conditions. To learn more about acupuncture for knee pain, contact NJSSW today.

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a common treatment for knee pain that involves inserting thin needles into specific points in your knee. This ancient Chinese medicine has gained popularity in Western culture due to its effectiveness in treating various conditions with minimal side effects.

Acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system to release various biochemicals, including endorphins and other neurotransmitters. The release of these chemicals helps to reduce inflammation, decrease pain perception, and improve overall blood circulation.

Multiple studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in treating knee pain caused by a variety of conditions, including osteoarthritis and injuries related to physical activity like running. Acupuncture can also help reduce inflammation, improve muscle function, and decrease pain perception, making it a viable treatment on its own or as an addition to traditional treatment methods like physical therapy.

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

What Happens During Acupuncture Therapy for Knee Pain?

When undergoing acupuncture, a professional acupuncturist will insert thin needles into specific acupoints on the skin. These needles are left in place for roughly 20 to 30 minutes and may be gently stimulated for an enhanced effect. Patients might experience a slight tingle or warmth at the needle insertion site, but overall, acupuncture is considered a painless procedure.

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

Is Acupuncture Actually Effective for Knee Pain?

Acupuncture has been a trusted and effective treatment option for thousands of years. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture as a legitimate form of healthcare, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has even funded research studies to explore its efficacy for a range of medical conditions. To learn more about acupuncture for knee pain, contact NJSSW today.

Avoid Knee Replacements with Advanced Knee Pain Treatment in West Belmar, NJ

Advanced Knee Pain Treatment West Belmar, NJ

When it comes to knee pain therapies and treatments, getting a knee replacement should be last on your list. Why put your body through such trauma if you haven't tried other non-invasive treatment options? Whether you're an athlete trying to work through a knee injury or you're over 65 and are dealing with osteoarthritis, NJ Sports Spine and Wellness can help.

It all starts with an introductory consultation at our office in Matawan or Marlboro. During your first visit, we'll talk to you about your knee pain symptoms, the goals you have in mind, and the advanced knee pain treatments available to you at our practice. From there, it's only a matter of time before you get back to a healthy, active lifestyle.

Every day you wait can worsen your knee condition. Contact us today and let our team help get you on the road to recovery and life with painful knees.

Latest News in West Belmar, NJ

TAPinto Wishes its Readers a Happy Easter Sunday

By Jack SlocumLast UpdatedApril 8, 2023 at 2:35 PMBELMAR & LAKE COMO, NJ — TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como wishes its readers a Happy Easter, this Sunday, April 9.The boroughs have been busy celebrating Easter Sunday, with the Belmar Recreation Department holding yet another successful Easter Egg Hunt last weekend. The event was rescheduled due to weather a few times, however, youngsters could eventually search for their eggs on the beach nonetheless.“Af...

By Jack Slocum

Last UpdatedApril 8, 2023 at 2:35 PM

BELMAR & LAKE COMO, NJ — TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como wishes its readers a Happy Easter, this Sunday, April 9.

The boroughs have been busy celebrating Easter Sunday, with the Belmar Recreation Department holding yet another successful Easter Egg Hunt last weekend. The event was rescheduled due to weather a few times, however, youngsters could eventually search for their eggs on the beach nonetheless.

“After several rain delays, the sun came out and so did the Easter Bunny!” a borough statement said on the event. “Thank you to all who volunteered and participated in this great event.”

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Several local restaurants are having deals for the special day, including Sweet! Bakery, located at 702 10th Avenue. Sweet! is offering customers the opportunity to make their own easter baskets with several treats like cupcakes, cakes, Italian cookie trays, cheesecake bites, handmade chocolates, fudge, and of course chocolate rabbits. Sweet! is open Saturday, April 8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and will be closed on Easter Sunday.

Brandl is another local business asking residents to get ‘egg-cited’ about the upcoming holiday and is offering a special takeout menu. For $85 a person, customers can enjoy a three-course meal consisting of specialties like lobster bisque, filet mignon, cinnamon sugar hot donuts, and several more options. Place your order on Saturday, April 8, and pick up your meal on Easter Sunday between 1 and 5 p.m.

Bar Anticipation in Lake Como is also hosting a special Easter Celebration, with the bar opening at 9 a.m. Brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the kitchen will remain open all day. Call 732-681-7422 to make a reservation.

Resurrection Day is of course being celebrated by local churches, including St. Rose and West Belmar United Methodist Church. According to St. Rose’s website, masses will be held at 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 5 p.m. The West Belmar United Methodist Church will be holding its Easter Sunday Service at 9:30 a.m.

Again, TAPinto hopes you have a Happy Easter and a wonderful spring.

Upscale apartment project could help Shore town make a swanky first impression, developer says

Belmar officials are weighing a proposal for 5-story apartment complex on a prominent site near the Shark River that, its architect says, would change the way visitors view the borough upon arriving.“The Mediterranean,” a 246-unit rental complex proposed by Carlstadt-based Russo Development, would be a pair of multi-level C-shaped buildings with arches, terraces and pitched red rooves, located on a 3.2...

Belmar officials are weighing a proposal for 5-story apartment complex on a prominent site near the Shark River that, its architect says, would change the way visitors view the borough upon arriving.

“The Mediterranean,” a 246-unit rental complex proposed by Carlstadt-based Russo Development, would be a pair of multi-level C-shaped buildings with arches, terraces and pitched red rooves, located on a 3.2-acre site at the base of the Route 35 Bridge.

The project architect, Dean Marchetto of Marchetto Higgins Stieve in Hoboken, whose many large-scale designs include the Pier Village mixed-used complex that transformed the Long Branch waterfront, said the project would provide a more upscale first-impression of Belmar, particulalry for motorists approaching the borough from the bridge.

“I think it would make a beautiful addition to your town and serve as a wonderful gateway landmark entry right here as you’re coming into town over the Shark River inlet,” Marchetto told members of the Borough Council during a meeting earlier this month.

Amenities would include terraces overlooking the river to the west, and a third-floor restaurant and fourth-floor bar that would be open to the public.

The council must approve the redevelopment project, and Marchetto tried to woo members with renderings and an interactive 3D graphic, as well as photographs of other works by his firm and of existing Belmar buildings that inspired the project’s design.

Depending on approvals, the company hopes to break ground on the project in Spring 2022, with completion anticipated two years later, the developer, Ed Russo, said through a spokesperson. Russo declined to provide an estimated cost figure for the project.

The site lies between Route 35, also known as River Road, to the west, and the Belmar Train Station along NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line to the east, and would cater to commuting residents of the project and other borough neighborhoods, with an underground parking garage also open to the public.

Eighth Avenue runs along the two-block site’s northern end, with 10th Avenue to the south. The site, which is currently occupied by the Belmar Motor Lodge and a pair of catering halls, the Waterview and Riverview Pavilions, has been designated an area in need of redevelopment since 1997.

Russo said at the meeting that the project would include 132 one-bedroom apartments, 91 two-bedroom units, and 23 studios. Russo said condominiums were ruled out because the site is too far from the beach — seven blocks — to generate sufficient demand from potential investors or would-be homeowners.

Even so, Russo said the Mediterranean is envisioned to be an upscale residence, and the large number of units was dictated by the need for adequate revenue cash flow to afford the half-dozen permanent on-site staffers such luxury digs demand.

He said rents would likely range from $1,600-$1,800 for studios, “the low-2,000s” for one-bedroom apartments, and “the high-twos to low-threes,” for two-bedroom units.

“We look forward to moving ahead with a project that, hopefully, the borough and the community can be proud of,” Russo told council members during the March 16 meeting.

Underground garages would provide 400 parking spaces for residents plus another 122 spaces available to the public.

The 1.6 spaces per unit for residents is fewer than the 2-per-unit ratio required within the so-called Seaport Village Redevelopment Area, and so the council would have to approve that deviation from the redevelopment plan and others. Only then could Russo seek a formal site plan approval from the Belmar Planning Board.

Two other deviations involve the project’s proposed maximum height of 58 feet, which exceeds the redevelopment plan’s 35-foot limit, plus its amount of impervious surface, which would be 90% of the lot’s area, as opposed to the 85% allowed by the plan.

Because it’s on the waterfront, the project also needs water and sewer permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection under the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, or CAFRA, which Russo said his company was pursuing.

Borough Planner Jennifer Beahm said design elements intended to enhance the aesthetics of the gateway project also came at the expense of ground-floor retail space also required by the redevelopment plan, prompting Mayor Mark Walsifer to characterize the council’s decision in either/or terms.

“So that’s what this governing body will have a look at: to have a building that’s welcoming to come into town, or to have, basically, something that fits into the seaport redevelopment,” Walsifer said.

The council’s next meeting is April 6.

“We have to digest everything and meet with our team to see if this is a good project to move forward,” Walsifer told Russo and Marchetto at this month’s meeting. “I’m sure our planner and engineer will be in touch with you guys.”

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West Belmar Food Pantry Seeks Donations to Keep Up with Community Need

The West Belmar Food Pantry is located in the rear of the United Methodist Church, 1000 17th Avenue in the West Belmar section of Wall. It is open from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and Thursday. Preparing groceries for distribution at the West Belmar Food Pantry are, from left, volunteers Cynthia Capotosto, Joanne Adcock, Michael Taute, Virginia Jaime and Nancy Schreiber.Photo Credit: Cathy GoetzPhoto Credit: Cathy GoetzPhoto Credit: Cathy GoetzPreparing groceries for dis...

The West Belmar Food Pantry is located in the rear of the United Methodist Church, 1000 17th Avenue in the West Belmar section of Wall. It is open from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday and Thursday.

Preparing groceries for distribution at the West Belmar Food Pantry are, from left, volunteers Cynthia Capotosto, Joanne Adcock, Michael Taute, Virginia Jaime and Nancy Schreiber.Photo Credit: Cathy Goetz

Photo Credit: Cathy Goetz

Photo Credit: Cathy Goetz

Preparing groceries for distribution at the West Belmar Food Pantry are, from left, volunteers Cynthia Capotosto, Joanne Adcock, Michael Taute, Virginia Jaime and Nancy Schreiber.Photo Credit: Cathy Goetz

WALL, NJ — Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the West Belmar Food Pantry has been welcoming countless members of the community who need something from its shelves — canned and paper goods, milk and juice, breakfast and bakery items, produce, and so much more.

In fact, its volunteers served 90 families with 227 children and adults in September and a record-setting total of 20 families recently visited the pantry during its two hours of operation. The pantry also has been providing food to the Belmar senior housing building on Eighth Avenue, where its 50 residents — seniors and individuals with disabilities — continue to keep their travel to a minimum due to the COVID-19 health emergency.

“We’ve seen a lot of new faces, and it’s a blessing that we can help so many people,” said longtime volunteer Dorothy Theilen. “They know that our doors are open for what they need … and we love to see their smiles.”

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But while the pantry continues to receive donations of food and essential groceries from area churches, businesses and organizations, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with this growing need from the community.

As a result, volunteers hope to generate more support from the community to assist in replenishing its stock.

“We are in need of (food and monetary) donations to help us continue supplying the needs of those who come to us,” said volunteer Nancy Schreiber, adding that gift cards to ShopRite, Dollar Tree and Acme are also welcome so that items running low on the shelves can be purchased.

Donations can be dropped off at the pantry, located in the rear of the United Methodist Church at 1000 17th Avenue in West Belmar, during its regular hours of operation — from 10 am. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, the church office is open to accept donations from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.

An affiliate of Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean, the pantry moved from its longtime location at the former First United Methodist Church at 503 Seventh Avenue in Belmar earlier this year.

Here’s a list of its most-needed items:

During the current health crisis, visitors to the pantry are asked to follow safety and social distancing guidelines, which are displayed outside the church during times of operation.

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is the official electronic newspaper of both municipalities. As a locally owned news organization, TAPinto through its advertisers is able to publish online, objective news 24/7 at no charge. Sign up for its free daily e-News, and follow it on Facebook.

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Belmar’s New Recycling Collection Day Is Now Monday

BELMAR, NJ — With the start of the new year, Belmar's recyclables will be picked up every Monday, beginning January 6.That’s when the borough's Department of Public Works will be taking over recycling collection. In November, the borough council handed over recycling responsibilities to the department after it received a sole bid of $1.1 million from DeLisa Waste Services for a new five-year contract— climbing nearly 193 percent from the borough's current $377,688 pact with the Tinton Falls-based trash hauler....

BELMAR, NJ — With the start of the new year, Belmar's recyclables will be picked up every Monday, beginning January 6.

That’s when the borough's Department of Public Works will be taking over recycling collection. In November, the borough council handed over recycling responsibilities to the department after it received a sole bid of $1.1 million from DeLisa Waste Services for a new five-year contract— climbing nearly 193 percent from the borough's current $377,688 pact with the Tinton Falls-based trash hauler.

READ MORE: Belmar to Dump $1.1 Million Recycling Bid, Move Curbside Collection to Public Works

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Since DeLisa will continue to provide regular garbage pickup, there will be no change to that weekly schedule, which is as follows:

Residents are reminded to make sure collection receptacles are out at the curb by 6 a.m. on all pickup days.

In addition to curbside recycling collection on Mondays, the borough’s recycling center, located off West Railroad Avenue from 16th Avenue, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.

The facility is open to Belmar residents only. Upon arrival, be ready to show the attendant proof of residency. A current driver's license with your present address and/or any of the following items that must indicate a current date: car registration or insurance card, household bill, i.e. telephone or cable.

Visit the borough’s website, where the Recycle Coach provides recycling and garbage collection schedules based on addresses, as well as information on recycling rules, including what is and what is not recyclable. There is also a link on the website to obtain the free Recycle Coach app from the Apple and Google Play stores.

For more information about recycling or regular trash collection, call the public works department at 732-681-0452 or email DPW@belmar.com.

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is the official electronic newspaper of both municipalities. As a locally owned news organization, TAPinto through its advertisers is able to publish online, objective news 24/7 at no charge. Sign up for its free daily e-News, and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

Download the free TAPinto App! Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.

What's for Dessert in West Belmar: Fanciful holiday cookies

What's for Dessert?1901 Highway 71, West Belmar, (732) 556-0002. Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays to Saturdays; 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Sundays; closed Mondays.In August, I ate a pair of flip-flops. In September, it was a little red schoolhouse, and in October, I savored bright crimson autumn leaves and pumpkins. Last month, I chose a turkey, bit off his head and worked my way down.Then I started on a penguin and moved on to a polar bear, but I stopped short at a pair of mittens.Now I can’t ...

What's for Dessert?

1901 Highway 71, West Belmar, (732) 556-0002. Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays to Saturdays; 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., Sundays; closed Mondays.

In August, I ate a pair of flip-flops. In September, it was a little red schoolhouse, and in October, I savored bright crimson autumn leaves and pumpkins. Last month, I chose a turkey, bit off his head and worked my way down.

Then I started on a penguin and moved on to a polar bear, but I stopped short at a pair of mittens.

Now I can’t wait for Christmas stockings, ice skaters and snowmen. My entire family has enjoyed ladybugs and surfers in the summer, bunnies and chicks at Easter and snowflakes all winter long for 14 years at What’s for Dessert, and we couldn’t be healthier or happier.

You guessed, of course: They're all painted cookies, fanciful works of art. They're also delicious, and baker/owner Marianne Rosa has become so well-known for her cookies, her customers come up with off-the-wall ideas, knowing she can fulfill their wish. One day I saw a man pick up a huge box of cookies that were Barbie dolls, Barbie houses, Barbie cars — hey, where was Ken? The man's wife was turning 50, Barbie is 50, so he decided to throw a Barbie party and the cookies were favors.

Rosa also will put a photo of the guest of honor on a cookie, but biting off the head of someone I like is just too creepy for me. If you’re a musician, ask for guitars, pianos, tubas and the rest of the instruments in the band. Prada bags, circus clowns — you come up with a theme and Rosa will bring your event to another level. I once saw someone’s sailboat drawn to scale on dozens of cookies. Prices range from 60 cents to $3 each depending on size, or you can buy an $18 tin for a hostess gift during the holidays.

Rosa recently moved What’s for Dessert to its current location after 13 years in a busy strip mall farther down Highway 71. It’s easy to miss, so look for the baseball field across the street, then park in back of the white complex known as Wall Commons. She seems to be just as busy in her new site, and most locals know her as a cake decorator. In fact, when I lived in Spring Lake, we knew her as “the cake lady.” The cakes are truly beautiful and delicious ($16, 6”; $19, 8”; $30, quarter sheet; $45, half sheet; $85, whole sheet), but she bakes more than cakes.

I've always loved her cupcakes ($1.50, chocolate or vanilla; $1.85, pumpkin; $2, carrot), because the cake is light as a feather and the buttercream icing is hand-whipped, so it's smooth and creamy. She also makes wonderful rugelach, in cherry, apricot and nut ($12 per pound). The nut is so buttery, it melts in your mouth. Cream cheese cheesecake ($13-$25, depending on size) is light rather than dense, so the good and bad news is you'll be able to eat more.

This time of year, you might want to try pumpkin cheesecake instead. Cream puffs and éclairs ($2) are filled with pastry cream (custard with whipped cream folded in) and topped with chocolate; brownies ($1.50) are fudgey and come with or without nuts. If you really love brownies, the house specialties are topped with chocolate mousse or peanut butter cream, then covered in chocolate ($2.95).

Few people take the time to bake butter cookies anymore, and when you do see them, they’re commercially made and expensive. At What’s for Dessert, each butter cookie is made by hand ($12 per pound), and a normal selection includes miniature Linzer tortes, chocolate chip, chocolate-dipped, coconut-dipped and the loveliest Russian tea cakes from Rosa’s mom’s recipe.

Apple turnovers are huge and stuffed with fresh apples ($2.50), and if you like crumb cake, it comes in plain, blueberry and cheese ($1.50 per square). One recent Saturday morning, my friend Barbara and I devoured nut rugelach, and then went on to excellent cheese crumb cake. Dessert before lunch is so much more fun, we rationalized.

If you like fruit breads, you’ll love huge loaves of pumpkin, cranberry lemon or banana (with or without nuts) for $10. I couldn’t decide what to buy for dessert that night, but I chose an apple pie ($10), a lovely crusted mountain filled with slices of slightly tart apples. Good choice —

I could have gone for a chocolate or banana cream pie ($15) and really done myself in. I also skipped the cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, Danish and my all-time favorite: black and white cookies. I haven’t been able to sample the Amish sourdough cinnamon coffee cake ($8 per loaf; $1.50 per slice), because it sold out again before I arrived, but maybe you’ll get lucky.

Barbara loves What’s for Dessert, and she thinks so much of the hard-working staff (including Rosa’s sister Margaret), she bought pizza for all when she saw they had no time for lunch during last year’s holiday season. It’s that kind of place.

Rosa looks back on 14 years in business, and says they almost went under several times in the beginning, but business has grown every year. You’d think a small pastry shop would be a struggle, but when the product is quality and the people are nice, good things happen.

If you visit, note the store does not accept credit cards, but will take personal checks, and if you want something special for the holidays, call ahead. Otherwise, come by, pour yourself a cup of coffee, choose a cookie or pastry and sit down a spell. You’re sure to strike up a conversation with someone else who’s munching on Frosty, Santa, or maybe even a pair of mittens.

"Taste of New Jersey" appears every other week in the Savor section of the Star-Ledger. Please send news of your favorite finds with your name and telephone numbers to Savor, "Taste of New Jersey," The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J. 07102. All submissions become the property of The Star-Ledger and will not be returned; submissions may be edited and may be published or otherwise reused in any medium.

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