The other day I went searching for our cheese knives and in the process stumbled upon a small package of decorative parchment leaves I picked up years ago at Williams Sonoma (it's actually quite amazing they survived so many moves). I looked at them for a moment and then thought about all the beautiful, bright-colored trees I pass everyday and thought, "why am I not making my own decorative leaves this time of year?". Who needs to spend $16 when you can easily create your own authentic version instead?
All you need for this super simple DIY, (besides leaves), is a leaf press (or a couple of heavy phonebooks if you happen to have those still!). When choosing your leaves, consider those that are very bright in color, seemingly flawless and large enough to stage a small wedge of cheese. And options are good, so pick up a few more than you think you'll need.
Take your stack of leaves and gently rinse them one by one under a stream of warm water. Lay them in a single layer on a dry dishtowel. Use an additional towel to pat dry. Once you've removed all visible moisture from the leaves, it's time to place them in your press (single layer, with ample space around each leaf). You'll want to tighten your press as much as possible and then allow the leaves to flatten and dry out over the next 48 to 72 hours.
Once they are pressed, arrange them on a cheese board, tray, plate or platter. Add the cheese wedges, as well as the accoutrements, et voila...you have a beautiful cheese plate! Here I chose a brie called Pierre Robert (can you really ever go wrong with a triple-cream?), a personal favorite, P'tit Basque and new-to-me blue appropriately called Bleu d'Auvergne (amazing with figs!). I'm also a huge fan of Tomme de Savoie and Montagne. What are your favorites?